Iron Range 4th of July returns with gusto in 2021

Today I present one of my favorite annual features at MinnesotaBrown: the annual Fourth of July weekend lineup of Iron Range regional parades, street dances and fireworks displays. I’ve only been posting my newspaper columns this year as I finish my book. But I just had to come out of my book-writing cave to put… Read More →

Pressure, time, and the tricky business of hope

Pressure and time. That’s how minerals concentrate into ore formations beneath the earth. You might learn this in a geology class. But pressure and time also explain how humans extract those ores. Now we’re talking economics, the kind that affects our lives here on the Mesabi Iron Range. This spring brings an avalanche of news… Read More →

Legislature, mining & police

This year I’ll be offering occasional news analysis on WDSE’s Almanac North as part of the station’s “Voices of the Region” segment. My first segment was Jan. 8. If you missed it, here it is: I reviewed three topics. First, the legislature is in session now. Northeastern Minnesota lawmakers of both parties find themselves in… Read More →

Scenic Range NewsForum to cease publication

Another local newspaper bites the dust, this one on the western Mesabi Iron Range. On Tuesday, the Scenic Range NewsForum announced that the weekly newspaper will cease publication at the end of 2020. The newspaper published for decades at the Scenic Range News out of Bovey, Minnesota. The name refers to the local belief that… Read More →

All politics is national

We now understand that 2016 was no fluke. Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, a post-WWII bastion of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, now leans toward the Republican Party. And the DFL shows no sign of regaining lost ground anytime soon. The old days are truly gone. The numbers from Tuesday’s election weren’t overwhelming. President Trump won most… Read More →

Cleveland Cliffs resets the Mesabi Iron Range

Before March 2, 1901 northern Minnesota served as a battleground for two immutable titans of industry, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. At stake was control of the world’s richest untapped source of iron ore and the nation-building steel it could produce. The scene grew chaotic with new mines opening, closing, and changing hands all… Read More →

UPDATE: Mesabi Metallics claims new partners to restart former Essar iron ore project

UPDATE: I’ve revised the June 6 post with new information and to clarify project ownership. On Wednesday evening WDIO-Duluth aired a report by Renee Passal about a potential new investors and management structure for Mesabi Metallics. However, on Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources rejected the company as lacking credibility. Mesabi Metallics keeps a… Read More →

Cliffs CEO ‘in no hurry’ to build 2nd HBI plant

These days, Cleveland-Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves seems positively jubilant in his quarterly earnings calls with investors and the media. And why not? The first quarter of the year is normally pretty slow. That’s when iron ore ships are docked until ice retreats from the Great Lakes. Nevertheless, Cliffs performed well ahead of expectations in the… Read More →

Prairie River Minerals aims to restart scram mining on western Mesabi

Amid high demand and temporarily limited global supply, another new scram mining venture aims to reclaim natural iron ore on the western Mesabi Iron Range. Prairie River Minerals seeks to mine about 1.3 million tons of iron ore annually, mostly in Itasca County, hiring about 125 union workers in the process. The chief partners in… Read More →

What next for long-suffering Nashwauk mine project?

I drive past the former Butler Taconite mine site near Nashwauk, Minnesota, nearly every day. As such, I have ample time to join my neighbors, local leaders and international iron ore traders in wondering what might happen with the long-stalled construction of a new mine there. All this comes more than three decades after Butler… Read More →