Iron Range ore to play big role in #Harvey recovery

U.S. Steel’s MinnTac facility is the largest active iron ore operation in the United States, and “king” of the Iron Range mines of Northern Minnesota. (PHOTO: U.S. Steel)

By now we are familiar with the widespread devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the following tropical storm and torrential rain. It’s the single biggest rain event in the history of the contiguous United States. We may yet only guess at the totality of the storm’s terrible effect on the people of Houston, their property, and our economy at large. America’s fourth largest city has essentially been destroyed by a natural disaster.

In deed, all we can do is donate to relief efforts and open our hearts and homes to help others.

This story will reach farther than east Texas, however. Houston is the hub of the American oil industry and is considered one of the more spread-out major cities in the United States. That means that not only will homes need replacing, but vast amounts of infrastructure as well.

One analyst writing for the crowd-sourced financial site Seeking Alpha speculates that U.S. Steel will end up producing much of the steel that goes into rebuilding Houston. We’re talking roads, bridges, homes, automobiles and pipes for refineries and pipelines. That would mean that Mesabi Iron Range taconite — still the primary ingredient in U.S. Steel products — will be critical to the city’s rebirth.

U.S. Steel draws its taconite from its Minntac and Keetac plants in Mountain Iron and Keewatin, respectively. U.S. Steel also owns part of Hibbing Taconite.

The author suggests that U.S. Steel will play an outsized role in the recovery. Imports of foreign steel will be curtailed not only by current and potential tariffs, but also by the wrecked port of Houston where a third of all foreign steel enters the country. Further, the storm knocked many Texas scrap mills out of commission for a while, limiting another rival source of steel production.

Harvey destroyed as many as 200,000 brand new vehicles — many of them pickup trucks — in flooded dealership lots. More than half a million vehicles met their demise elsewhere. The flood waters eat away at the structural integrity of every steel girder or highway as we speak. In some ways it will almost be like rebuilding an entire American city.

Cleveland-Cliffs, another major Iron Range mining company, will also play a role in the recovery. It’s entirely possible that the rest of 2017 and 2018 will be banner years for Northern Minnesota iron ore production. It will all eventually return to normalcy, but for now the impact on our local mines could be huge.

For all the debate about mining’s actual impact on our region’s economy in the future, and that debate remains, there can be no doubt that having the ability to make steel when the country needs it remains vital to our economic and national security. Iron Range miners won’t just mine iron ore in 2018. They’ll rebuild Houston.


  1. Jobs in AMERICA
    Can’t loose

  2. Making a GREAT AMERICA GREATER ??? Good try Mary.
    It’s all being driven by MAGA!!

  3. In belated new news on this, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross just announced that the creation of the planned steel tariffs that will give American steel makers the advantage in selling in the US will be delayed until after the passage of the planned new tax cuts and tax plans. The reasons for this are uncertain, since the measure has wide bipartisan support and could be implemented quickly and easily.

    One result, however, will be that the longer the tariff is delayed the more time companies working on the rebuilding of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico will have to buy and stockpile cheaper foreign steel to use in rebuilding. I suspect this is not a motive in the ruling, because I think that Ross and Trump are mostly trying to pressure congress, including many Democrats with steel industry ties, to move forward on tax cuts. However, the impact will be a nice gift to large construction companies and their bottom lines.

    Following the announcement, stock prices for American steel companies fell across the board.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.