Union, state leaders celebrate Hibtac mineral lease recommendation

Union, state leaders celebrate Hibtac mineral lease recommendation
Published: May. 4, 2023 at 8:54 PM CDT
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NASHWAUK, MN. -- Thursday, state and union leaders, and hundreds of mine workers, celebrate the DNR’s most recent announcement.

“You know, this is great news,” said Chris Johnson, the President of USW Local 2705.

Amid concerns Cleveland Cliff’s Hibtac mine in Hibbing is running out of iron ore, the Minnesota DNR recommended they extend their work to the old Essar mining site in Nashwauk.

“They are the real deal,” said Johnson. “They are going to make this thing go, create jobs, they’re going to keep jobs.”

A sign of relief to more than 700 Hibtac union workers.

“This means so many more people can retire from Hibbing Taconite, or at least have the possibility now to retire from Hibbing Taconite,” said Johnson.

This comes after years of uncertainty.

The Nashwauk mine once was leased to Mesabi Metallics, but was pulled due to failure to meet the terms of the state’s agreement, including not making their payments to the state on time.

State leaders are now looking to Cliffs to take over the operation.

“They are a trusted partner, and we know that this is going to secure a lot of opportunity for our region, for a long time,” said DFL Sen. Grant Hauschild.

A move state, and union leaders say could bring benefits like more jobs, internal resourcing, and more.

“It makes sure that we know that there is a source of iron ore for Hibtac for decades,” said Sen. Hauschild.

There is another formal step before approval of this new mineral lease is complete, but excitement is still in the air.

“Granted again, it’s the first step of many, but we have never gotten to this step,” said Johnson. “We are all pretty happy.”

Cleveland Cliffs was not available for an interview but did extend their gratitude in a statement to Governor Walz and the DNR.

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