The following is an Op-Ed written by Governor Mark Dayton:
I worked for and with then-Governor Rudy Perpich for 14 years. He taught me that, when he was growing up in Hibbing, seeing his father’s lunch pail down on the kitchen table meant that he was working, and times were good on the Range. However, if that lunch pail was left up on the shelf, his father was not working, and life was going to be very hard.
The last few years have been awfully tough for many workers and businesses on the Range. Mining has always been the foundation of the Iron Range economy, and that industry has been clobbered by low prices, caused in part by illegal foreign imports.
Now, however, there are reasons to be optimistic on the Range once again. Ore prices have risen, plants are reopening, and thousands of hardworking Minnesotans are going back to work.
With Keetac now reopening, it joins Minntac, Hibtac, ArcelorMittal Minorca, Northshore, and United Taconite in supporting a strong mining economy on the Range. And, the sale of Magnetation to a new owner means that more jobs could soon be returning and resuming innovative work to turn mine waste into valuable iron ore concentrate. This operation would not only put more people back to work, but also make sure we are getting greater economic value out of our existing resources.
Those taconite operations not only employ thousands of people directly, they’re the cornerstones of healthy communities and the mainstays of other businesses throughout the region. Even though many Rangers have lived through previous mining downturns and have seen the industry rebound, it is still an agonizingly slow wait for it to come back again.
I want to thank Congressman Rick Nolan, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken, who worked hard last year to reduce the dumping of foreign steel into our country. Thanks to their efforts and others, ore prices have risen and good mining jobs have returned, boosting the region’s and the entire state’s economies.
Of course, the credit for this turnaround also belongs to the men and women, who work hard in those mines and produce quality products that are second to none. I also want to thank the owners and executives of the mining companies, who see the great value in continuing their operations here. By working together, all of us make a very strong team, on which to build future success.
In addition, many other Iron Range business owners and their employees are working hard to expand the Range’s economy through new and diverse businesses. The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) is an active partner in those efforts, to ensure better futures for people on the Range, during both good times and bad.
As the economy continues to grow and diversify, it is also important that Rangers have opportunities to get the additional training they might need to qualify for new jobs in the region. That’s why my Bonding Bill, with the strong support of the Range Legislative Delegation, would invest millions more dollars in this region’s public colleges and universities.
In addition, the PolyMet copper-nickel Mining project at the old LTV site continues to move ahead through the regulatory process. Before obtaining the final permit to mine, PolyMet must still demonstrate that it has the financial ability to pay for future cleanup costs, after the mine ceases operations. While no final decision can be reached until the process has concluded, the project continues to make good progress through the regulatory approvals it must receive.
We know that we’ll face future economic challenges in Minnesota, on the Iron Range and throughout our state. But Minnesotans always endure, persevere, and ultimately thrive, even when times are tough. Now, with six taconite mines open, and hundreds of Rangers back at work, the future is looking up for them, their families, and their neighbors.
Thank you to the mines’ operators and workers, who have helped the Range economy to grow strong again. As long as I’m Governor, the State of Minnesota will be your partner in supporting a strong Iron Range and a better Minnesota.