Obama OKs more enforcement to block steel dumping

worker takes a sample at steel company

Late last week, President Obama approved new measures to better enforce trade protections against illegal steel imports. The efforts would provide more funding to investigate allegations of steel dumping, or selling steel for less than it costs to make.

The move comes amid some relief in steel pricing on the world market, a factor that would likely reduce the amount of dumping anyway. Most analysts believe the price increase is temporary. Nevertheless, Iron Range mines way down on the other end of the supply chain might see at least some consistent operations in 2016.

Bear in mind, predictions for most of this year were pretty bad. So, any hope of reopening the currently shuttered mines at United Taconite in Eveleth, Northshore Mining in Babbitt and Silver Bay or Keewatin Taconite would be deeply appreciated here in Northern Minnesota. That said, this doesn’t immediately solve the problem of massive company debts or address long term problems with Iron Range taconite. Thus, the term “relief” is more appropriate than “recovery.”

Further, there remain unresolved contract negotiations at mines operated by Cliffs Natural Resources and ArcelorMittal. ArcelorMittal, in particular, has taken a particularly hard line stance in talks with the United Steelworkers. Mines will continue to use the threat of closure to hold the line with workers.

Automation technologies are surely being developed as we speak. Even this modest increase in demand will not reverse the fact that Iron Range ore and American steel is among the most expensive in the world. It’s not all because of labor, either. Australia has access to better supplies of ore than we do, which halves their costs.

So the choppy seas of Iron Range mining continue to churn, but with the hope that some ups might be mixed with the downs. In terms of the need for economic diversification and creating sustainable communities, schools and institutions, however, nothing has changed. We must press forward without hesitation.

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