2020: A look back at what happened in the mining industry

WDIO
Updated: December 31, 2020 06:22 PM
Created: December 31, 2020 05:55 PM

It was quite the year on many fronts. And the mining industry made it through. Here's a look at some of the major moves during 2020.

January: It was a tough start for PolyMet, as the Minnesota Court of Appeals sent permits back to the DNR. Meanwhile, an evidentiary hearing began in state court, for a permit issued by the MPCA. And a celebration for the new Quad Cities Food Shelf, which was opened with help from mining companies.

February: More debate in Washington about mining near the BWCA, during a House Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals hearing. PolyMet and the DNR appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court about the permits being sent back to the DNR. And the Iron Ore Alliance starts releasing videos called Taconite Talks.

March: COVID 19 started taking over our lives. The annual SME conference and meeting is cancelled. The mines begin working on ways to keep people separated during their shifts. It temporarily stopped work at Cliffs' HBI plant in Toledo, Ohio. Still, Cliffs completed the acquisition of AK Steel.

April: The dominos started falling. News about Northshore being idled through August. Then Keetac got the word about an indefinite idle. And for Hibtac, an announcement about a three month shutdown.

May: It was Minntac's turn, with about 250 people going on layoff. Also, U.S. Steel agreed to sell a 25% interest in Minntac to Stelco. Then, the automakers announced they were ramping up production again, with employees heading back to the factories in Detroit.

June: As we headed into the summer months, NRRI shared more about exploring a new crushing technology. We took you up to ride the Redhead, the new mountain bike trail that opened up on old mining land. And the Minnesota Supreme Court said they would review the case about the air permit for PolyMet.

July: It took awhile, but COVID did eventually hit the mines. United Taconite was the first to have an employee test positive. Then, layoffs for port people, too. Key Lakes decides to lay up three of their vessels due to the drop in iron ore demand. Then, the first shift back for Hibtac people. And, a visit from Ivanka Trump to Duluth Pack brought out people who are against the Twin Metals project.

August: A new era in education. A groundbreaking for the new Rock Ridge High School. Minnesota Power starts studying the possibility of electric trucks in the mines. And at the end of the month, a visit from Vice President Mike Pence, who rallied people at the port and mentioned mining several times. It was there several mayors from Range towns announced they were endorsing President Trump.

September: Cleveland-Cliffs announced they are going to acquire ArcelorMittal USA, a major move. Also, President Trump signs an executive order for minerals, the same day he campaigned in Duluth. And a judge in Ramsey County rejected allegations that the MPCA had tried to keep evidence out of the record when it worked on a permit for PolyMet.

October: More attention from the White House. Top advisors listened in during a discussion about critical minerals in Hermantown. The Minnesota Supreme Court heard more about PolyMet permits. The Erie Mining History Project sent out 1400 of their books to schools and colleges in Minnesota. And the former LTV union hall in Aurora is going to become home to the Aurora Market.

November: The callback at Keetac is the best early Christmas present the steelworkers could ask for. U.S. Steel announced they want to restart the plant in mid-December. PolyMet was back in front of the Minensota Supreme Court about the permit from the MPCA. And Cliffs announced that on Thanksgiving, they started producing HBI at their facility in Toledo.

December: And as the year came to a close, Mesabi Metallics gets another chance to make good on their plan to finish the mine and pellet plant in Nashwauk. The state executive council approved an amended lease agreement. Cliffs completed their acquisition of ArcelorMittal USA, putting them in control of four of the six mines. And pellets rolled off the line again at Keetac.

Mining leaders seem optimistic about 2021, with three managers reporting plans for full production during the virtual IMA meeting.

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