Walz, council grant Cleveland-Cliffs Mesabi Metallics’ old mineral leases

Gov. Tim Walz signs a bill providing unemployment insurance for Iron Range workers as...
Gov. Tim Walz signs a bill providing unemployment insurance for Iron Range workers as co-authors Rep. Dave Lislegard (D-Aurora), left and Sen. Grant Hauschild (D-Hermantown) look on. #mnleg(Northern News Now)
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 1:38 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, MN. (Northern News Now) - After many legal battles, an executive council has officially approved giving Cleveland-Cliffs the mineral leases for Mesabi Metallics’ old site in Nashwauk.

The decision was made during an executive council meeting at the State Capitol Thursday, after a recommendation by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources earlier this month.

Documents say the motion was approved unanimously on a voice vote to approve the taconite leases.

This 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 expressed interest in the leases, as they anticipate their HibTac site in Hibbing will run out of iron ore in the next few years.

“I applaud the DNR and Cleveland-Cliffs for negotiating a fair deal on the Nashwauk leases, and I was glad to see a unanimous vote of support from the executive council,” said Senator Grant Hauschild, a DFLer representing Hermantown. “This deal will extend the life of Hib-Tac for decades and will save hundreds of mining jobs for workers and families across the Iron Range.”

Representative Dave Lislegard, a DFLer representing Aurora, released the following statement after the decision:

“This is a fantastic day for the Iron Range. The seemingly endless 15-year debacle under the prior operators – full of missed deadlines, failed payments, and broken promises – has finally reached an end. I’ve worked hard to tell the story of the ways these bad actors have harmed our region and how we must learn from prior missteps. I’m deeply grateful to the DNR for all of their exhaustive work to get this process right. I’m also thankful for the Executive Council members who thoughtfully listened to the people on the Iron Range who have come together with a collective voice saying it’s time to go in a different direction. Particularly, I’m appreciative of Governor Walz for standing up for the workers, families, and communities of the Iron Range.

“This conclusion will benefit our region, the mining industry, and the state of Minnesota. Cliffs is the real deal and have consistently shown dedication to our region and our communities. We all knew that without this solution, the forecast for Hibbing Taconite’s future was grim. The Executive Council’s action will ensure these crucial jobs can continue and families can have hope for a secure economic future. This outcome could not have been possible without the remarkable advocacy from our local leaders, our partners in labor, the business community, and others who contributed countless hours of hard work to finally turn the page to a new chapter, with new jobs, new opportunities, and a new positive outlook.”

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

“Today’s approval of these leases by the Minnesota Executive Council resolves years of uncertainty regarding Hibbing Taconite’s mine life. Cleveland-Cliffs will immediately begin the work necessary to develop this quality ore body as an extension of Hibbing Taconite. The state’s mineral leases, combined with our own private mineral holdings at Nashwauk acquired by Cleveland-Cliffs in 2017, will provide more than two decades of additional ore reserves for Hibbing Taconite, preserving hundreds of good paying union jobs, and ensuring continued supply of iron ore pellets for Cleveland-Cliffs’ steel mills.”

“Cleveland-Cliffs appreciates the leadership of Governor Tim Walz and the great work of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, as well as the support of Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, Secretary of State Steve Simon, Attorney General Keith Ellison and State Auditor Julie Blaha. This win-win outcome would not have been possible without the strong partnership of the United Steelworkers, particularly the USW Local 2705 at Hibbing Taconite, in addition to a new generation of dedicated Iron Range elected officials who are truly working for the betterment of the region, such as State Representative David Lislegard, State Senator Grant Hauschild and State Senator Rob Farnsworth.”

“Today we celebrate the resilience of Hibbing Taconite, its workforce and the tremendous potential of these Nashwauk leases. Then, we immediately begin the hard work of securing the next generation of union jobs and economic opportunity for the Iron Range.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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