2018 Mining Year in Review

Updated: December 29, 2018 05:14 PM

It was a busy and complicated year for some of the mining industry's big players. Here's a look at some of the major events.


First off, it was a contract year. Union leaders flew back and forth to Pittsburgh, while members rallied back at home for a fair contract. In the end, Cleveland-Cliffs settled theirs first, then U.S. Steel, and finally ArcelorMittal. Each has a four year deal with the steelworkers.

Another big development was the government's decision to reinstate leases to Twin Metals. The formal re-instatement happened in May, and now they are in the process of renewing them.

In related news, was the cancellation of the proposed mining ban near the Boundary Waters. President Trump visited Duluth in June, and announced he was going to take the first steps to rescind the federal withdrawal. Then, in early September, the official announcement from the Secretary of Agriculture.

After results from the Section 232 investigation, Trump announced steel and aluminum tariffs in March. This was welcome news for many in the industry who had fought hard against steel dumping.

On the state level, countless stakeholders worked on changes to the state's sulfate standard. The MPCA came up with an equation based sulfide standard, but a judge shot that down. The MPCA dropped that proposal. Governor Dayton then vetoed legislation supported by the industry that would have created  wild rice work group. Instead, he created a task force.

Dayton is finishing up his second and final term as governor. The legislators who represent the Range changed only slightly after the election. Dave Lislegard, from Aurora, will now fill the 6B spot. The incumbents who ran kept their seats. Which means the makeup of the IRRRB will stay pretty similar, although all the members do need to be reappointed in January.

Over in Nashwauk, things got complicated. In July, Tom Clarke and Mesabi Metallics received word they had gotten the state's mineral leases reinstated. But a month later, a judge ruled that Clarke could no longer represent the project. There's a new CEO, Gary Heasley, who stood by side by side with Dayton during a heated town hall in September.

Meanwhile, Cleveland-Cliffs continues to advance their plans for the site, which include mining and an HBI plant. Cliffs is also making good progress on their upgrade at Northshore Mining, which is being completed by Lakehead Constructors. Once finished, it will help Cliffs make more DR grade pellets for their HBI plant in Toledo, which they broke ground in April.

PolyMet received permits from the DNR on November 1st, and the MPCA on December 20th. Opponents vow to keep fighting it. Also, the company closed on the land exchange with the government, although several lawsuits remain over it.

A few celebrations to note. One was for the new campground at Lake Vermilion State Park, which was part of the dream when US Steel sold 3000 acres of valuable land to the state.

A few months later, in October, a groundbreaking for the Bruce Mine Park in Chisholm.

In Minnesota Power news, the utility company received approval from the Minnesota PUC for their joint project with Dairyland Power Cooperative. The Nemadji Trail Energy Center is slated for Superior. They were also honored for helping restore power to Puerto Rico.

And the Duluth Seaway Port Authority has their first female executive director. Deb DeLuca is now in charge. She said that iron ore continues to dominate tonnage through the port.

Another year has wrapped up. But there's so much more ahead for 2019!

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