St. Louis County offers generous lease to Hibbing Taconite

Taconite pellets

Taconite pellets

This week, the St. Louis County Board approved a rather lopsided lease agreement with Hibbing Taconite. The deal gives the Cliffs-run mining company access to 21 acres of land for a one-time cash payment of $20,700 and annual lease payments of $1,650 for up to 25 years.

If those numbers sound more like a home mortgage agreement and less like a mining lease, you’d be right. Additionally, the mineral rights are owned by private parties and the taxpayers won’t benefit from this other than the nominal fees to the county garnered in this arrangement.

Unless, of course, you consider this expansion an existential necessity for the continuance of Hibbing Taconite, which apparently many do. It’s common knowledge that the mine needs to expand its footprint to follow better ores. The cost of that investment will be a big factor for Cliffs to consider in the turbulent years ahead.

Meantime, this is only one of what will become many instances of mines seeking low-cost access to public lands in order to keep production going into the 21st Century. Just as with the reduction in the fees for school trust land earlier this year, the public will be asked to shoulder the cost of making these mines more profitable as long as such concessions are made.


  1. County Board – “the agreement will help keep Hibbing Taconite mining operations in the area for decades”. “The board is aware we need this,” said Commissioner Tom Rukavina of Pike Township. “Those are good paying jobs.” Hibbing Taconite employs about 745 people and has a $92 million annual payroll.

    Aaron Brown – “the public will be asked to shoulder the cost of making these mines more profitable”.

    One statement sounds like a “win-win”…and one like a confrontational “we-they”. It’s no wonder Tommy gets re-elected time after time. Rangers aren’t stupid.

  2. Thank goodness that St Louis county board members understand the value of 92M in payroll to our area. How could anyone find fault with this deal? Why does it matter about mineral rights? You think some local land owner is going to go after taconite with his shovel? We have natural resources up here taconite, copper, nickel, logging let’s use them to employ Rangers and we can still diversify at the same time.
    The us vs them up here when mining is involved is getting worse by the year. There would be no Range without mining!!

  3. John Ramos says

    If this deal will truly allow Hibbing Taconite to operate for decades more, you’d think the county would ask for better terms. On the free market, I’m pretty sure more money than that would change hands for such a valuable concession. I wish commissioners would act more like private businessmen.

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