DNR recommending Nashwauk mineral leases go to Cleveland-Cliffs

Cleveland Cliffs
Cleveland Cliffs(WLUC)
Published: May. 4, 2023 at 1:12 PM CDT
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NASHWAUK, MN. (Northern News Now) - The Minnesota DNR has announced they will be recommending the old mineral leases for Mesabi Metallics site in Nashwauk be given to Cleveland-Cliffs.

The Minnesota DNR announced Thursday they will be asking the Executive Council to approve new leases with Cleveland-Cliffs for state ore near Nashwauk.

In addition, the DNR has included this as an agenda item for the May 25 Executive Council meeting.

The announcement comes several months after the Minnesota Supreme Court decided not to review the DNR’s ruling that pulled Mesabi Metallics’ mineral leases.

Mesabi Metallics had been hoping to build a mining and pelletization plant on the former Essar site in Nashwauk. But DNR leaders claimed Mesabi Metallics didn’t meet the terms of the lease agreement, for reasons such as not making certain payments on time. So the DNR terminated Mesabi Metallics’ leases.

After that decision, Cleveland-Cliffs leaders had expressed interest in the leases, as they anticipate their HibTac site in Hibbing will run out of iron ore in the next few years.

The Minnesota DNR released the following statement about Thursday’s announcement:

“After careful consideration of multiple requests to lease the state ore near Nashwauk, the DNR has concluded that it is in the best interest of the State to enter into leases with Cleveland Cliffs. Cleveland Cliffs has a proven record of bringing mining projects into operation and currently holds a significant land position adjacent to the state ore in the area. Leasing this state ore to Cleveland Cliffs will provide local communities, K-12 public schools and other beneficiaries a long overdue source of mineral revenue. Cleveland Cliffs has stated that, if the leases are approved, it intends to utilize the state ore to extend the life of Hibbing Taconite and that it would immediately begin the work needed to bring the ore into production.”

Cleveland-Cliffs Chairman, President, and CEO Lourenco Goncalves released the following statement after the decision:

“Cleveland-Cliffs and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have reached an agreement on a package of State iron ore mineral leases at the Nashwauk mine site for review by the Minnesota Executive Council on May 25. I thank Governor Walz for his support and the great work of his Department of Natural Resources. We would not be at this very place without Governor Walz’s leadership and the great work of the Minnesota DNR professionals. When approved by the MN Executive Council, the leases will be used to provide a long-term extension of Hibbing Taconite’s mine life, securing the future of Hibbing Taconite and the good-paying, union jobs at HibTac, our flagship operation in Minnesota. I look forward to the Minnesota Executive Council’s review and approval of this lease package on May 25.”

Representative Dave Lislegard, a DFLer who represents Aurora, also commented on the decision Thursday:

“There have been years of broken promises and missed deadlines, and as a result, the people of the Iron Range have had to experience economic turmoil for far too long. Today, the uncertainty surrounding this project is finally coming to an end. I’m grateful to Governor Walz and the Minnesota DNR for performing their thoughtful due diligence on this process and coming to a conclusion that benefits our region, the mining industry, and the state of Minnesota. I’m also thankful for the incredible advocacy from our partners in labor. Cliffs has demonstrated a real commitment to the people of our region. I’ve been working to see this result come to fruition for many years – with the leases going to a proven, reputable company – and I’m proud to have brought people around the table so we could finally arrive at a solution like the one announced today. The relief workers, families, businesses, and communities will experience following this news cannot be overstated, and I could not be more happy for the people of our region. There are still some steps to come – including final approval from the Executive Council – but today is a very good day on the Iron Range, and it validates the years of hard work.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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