As economy shutters mines, reflection on 20 years of the same story

This 2019 image of a production shovel and truck at Hibbing Taconite illustrates the nature of industrial automation. Here, two workers in ten minutes move an amount of ore that once would have taken 50 workers all day. And both of these pieces of equipment may one day be outfitted with remote control technology. (PHOTO: Christina Hiatt Brown)

My latest column for the Minnesota Reformer is up today: “The mines will come back, many of the jobs won’t.”

I reflect on an early career experience offering hollow words to a laid-off miner. Then I explore trends in mining and American industry in general.

As world events and volatile markets flap their butterfly wings, U.S. Steel’s Keewatin Taconite, Cleveland Cliffs’ Northshore Mine, and ArcelorMittal’s Hibbing Taconite will all remain idle during the traditional peak of mining production this year. Others may join them.

A similar event occurred five years ago, and another six years before that. Like a sundial the shadow always comes around again.

The Iron Range’s up-and-down economy is old hat to anyone who follows Minnesota news. What’s often unsettling though is how fast these fortunes turn. An industry projecting virile strength just three months ago is now bedridden by ague. 

Read the whole thing.


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