Talkin’ Range history, communists & nonferrous mining, as one does

Dylan Days 2008 featured a rare photo of Bob Dylan on a friend's motorcycle in his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota.

Bob Dylan on a friend’s motorcycle in his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota.

Last week I gave an e-mail interview to Ed Newman for his blog, which he published as “Dylan Town: MinnesotaBrown Talks About Life on the Iron Range and Its History, Past and Present.”

It was an challenging exercise for me, as it combined several different aspects of topics I cover here at the blog.

First, it leaned heavily on the research I’ve been doing for my ongoing book project about Vic Power and early Hibbing history. Then it got into some of the local connections to early socialist and communist movements here on the Range. Then it ends with an incendiary point of view on nonferrous mining in our contemporary political scene, one that will likely please no one.

If you like the blog, you’ll probably find this worth reading … and maybe worth hollering over one way or the other.

You can read the interview here.



  1. Outstanding.

    This should be required reading for every ninth grader in Northeast Minnesota.

  2. Also, the “we need Range copper to create green technology” argument is based, like a lot of the arguments for non-ferrous mining, on conditions that existed in 2006. The world need for copper is actually down substantially despite some obvious new uses, and there is a world-wide surplus of copper without the Range as a source. The combination of stabilizing of demand for some products and engineering that reduces copper use has sharply reduced demand.

    The real catch-22 here for Range copper is that we really need much higher prices to make the mines work financially, even if the big players find ways to cheat on agreements to reduce costs. But higher prices for copper are a fantastic incentive for the engineers to go back to work reducing copper use, so price rises will likely be shortly followed by drops in demand and then by drops in prices. Range copper, due to the high cost of extraction, will always be the highest price source, so will be the first suppliers to drop out in situations of reduced demand.

    As Aaron has said, the real enemy of getting the Range non-ferrous mines on line is not the tribes and the environmentalists. It is the world copper market, and the hard-headed businessmen in London and Santiago who are running the spreadsheets on the business case.

  3. Very interesting interview. Sounds as if Mr. Newman has largely inhaled the mining industry point of view.

    It should be apparent by now that northern Minnesota is unlikely every to be a lowest-cost copper source, and is likely to be a money-making place to mine copper only during price peaks. Thus, the notion of stable employment in non-ferrous mining is largely a pipe dream.

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