The Iron Ore Alliance is grateful for the leadership of U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, and U.S. Representative Rick Nolan, who met last week with top administration officials at the White House in an effort to determine what immediate steps can be taken to stop mining and steel industry job losses stemming from declining iron ore prices and unfair dumping of foreign steel. These state leaders understand the importance of Minnesota’s taconite industry. Below are quotes from a press release issued last week by the Minnesota congressional delegation.
Senator Klobuchar: “Minnesota’s steelworkers can compete with anybody in the world when it comes to providing quality steel – but they need a level playing field. Today’s meeting focused on the need to stand up for the workers who help drive our economy forward by making it easier to crack down on illegal trade practices, and we will continue working to keep the Range strong.”
Senator Franken: Today, we pressed the White House and top U.S. trade and economic officials to understand what families and workers in Keewatin are going through, and to not only step up and help reverse the job losses that are happening in Minnesota, but to also let overseas competitors know that they can no longer unfairly dump their steel. Our steel industry needs a level playing field now.”
Lieutenant Governor Smith: “Minnesota produces 70 percent of the iron ore consumed in the United States at some of the best prices. We can compete with anyone in the world if we have fair play.”
Representative Rick Nolan: “Thousands of good paying mining jobs across the nation – including more than 450 on Minnesota’s Iron Range – are in jeopardy due to millions of tons of low-grade, foreign government-subsidized steel from Asia being dumped into the U.S. marketplace. Our message to the Administration is that now is the time to act before our domestic steel industry is lost entirely in a race to the bottom that’s jeopardizing jobs, our economy and our national security.”
Last Thursday, Keetac workers raised more than $1,200 for a local food shelf through its semiannual gate collection, where employees donate money as they enter the workplace. The funds raised for this gate collection were given to Neighbors Helping Neighbors, the food shelf in Nashwauk. In a recent article in the Hibbing Daily Tribune, Dan Pierce, president of United Steelworkers Local 2660, said, “With the recent downturn in the industry and the threats of layoffs here in May, I, as president, was nervous as to how the gate collection would go. After seeing how we did, I just want to say ‘thank you’ to all the people who work at Keetac – hourly and management – for putting aside our concerns to make sure that other people’s concerns are taken care of.” Click here to read the full story.
Minnesota’s iron ore mines contribute millions of dollars annually to Minnesota’s Permanent School Fund, which distributes money to every public school in the state. In 2014, U. S. Steel’s Minnesota Ore Operations contributed more than $37 million in royalty payments to the trust funds. This amounts to 84 percent of the total contributions in 2014.
The Iron Ore Alliance supports proposed legislation that would require publicly funded construction and maintenance projects in Minnesota to give preference to American-manufactured iron, steel, and other manufactured goods. The Iron Range is where the steelmaking process begins, and the region provides high-quality, well-paying jobs to thousands of people. We hope the Minnesota Legislature will support this legislation that is important to the future viability of the taconite mining industry.
The United Way of Northeastern Minnesota presented the “Taconite Challenge Award” to the Minntac mining operation at the nonprofit’s annual campaign celebration dinner last week. The traveling trophy is given annually to the mining facility with the highest employee participation in the United Way’s giving campaign. Minntac, the single largest iron ore pelletizing operation in the United States, is operated by United States Steel Corporation with union members from United Steelworkers Local 1938 and 9115. In 2014, more than 67 percent of Minntac employees participated in the giving program, raising a total of $229,916 for local nonprofits that are dedicated to improving education, helping people achieve financial stability, promoting healthy lives, and strengthening families.
The Iron Ore Alliance is pleased that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is continuing its work to determine an appropriate sulfate level standard based on sound science for each body of water in the state. Minnesota’s sulfate water quality standard is a critical issue for the taconite mining industry and Minnesota is the only state in the nation with such a standard.
As the MPCA announced today, it plans to go through formal rulemaking to change the existing standard later this year. While today was an important step in the process, it is not a comprehensive solution to the sulfate issues. Good, defensible science is still needed.
In a recent interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Governor Dayton stated that the sulfate standard is complex and doesn’t guarantee that wild rice will thrive. He also said that the sulfate standard aimed at protecting wild rice is out of date, and implementing it could be catastrophic for northeastern Minnesota.
The Iron Ore Alliance believes that wild rice can be protected while also allowing for continued operations in Minnesota’s taconite mining industry. We plan to continue working with the MPCA and all interested stakeholders to ensure that the sulfate standard is fairly enforced and based on modern science.