Governor, Mesabi Metallics to hold Nashwauk forum

Gov. Mark Dayton speaks to reporters outside the Nashwauk Township Hall on July 12, 2016 after the CEO of Cliffs Natural Resources announced a plan to take over the Essar site and build a direct-reduced iron plant. Times have changed. Dayton returns to the site Monday to explain why Mesabi Metallics still has the permits. (Aaron J. Brown)

On a sunny July day in 2016, Gov. Mark Dayton and a gaggle of mining officials took questions inside the Nashwauk Township Community Center about the former Butler Taconite plant just a few miles down the road. Now, just over two years later, Dayton will hold a similar event, only this production boasts a whole new cast of supporting characters.

The event two years ago was coordinated to boost Cleveland-Cliffs’ efforts to take over the long suffering Essar Steel project that would have revitalized the old Butler site. This time, Dayton finds himself in league with Cliffs’ rivals, Mesabi Metallics, as they tout new investment and a promise to mine the site.

The governor’s town hall will be held Monday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Nashwauk Township Community Center at 16410 County Road 8 north of Nashwauk, Minnesota.

To get there from Highway 169, turn north on State Highway 65 into Nashwauk. Then, turn left on Highway 8. It’s only a few miles from town and very near the former Butler Taconite mine site.

Gov. Dayton will be there, along with IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips and mining officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. In addition, Mesabi Metallics CEO Gary Heasley will provide an update on the project.

This year we’ve seen Cleveland-Cliffs and Mesabi Metallics spar over access to the former Butler Taconite site. Cliffs owns critical land, but Mesabi holds the permit to mine.

Just a week earlier, Cleveland Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves loudly denounced Gov. Dayton’s handling of this matter, saying that he should just give Cliffs the leases to mine the land he owns. Gov. Dayton and state officials pushed back, arguing they can’t legally do that. Further, trying to do so would tie the project up in litigation.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how local residents react to the town hall event, and who shows up.

I spoke about the project on the KAXE Morning Show today, which you can listen to here.


  1. Aaron…… thanks for the story, a little typo detail, Sept., not Oct.

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