President Donald Trump on Wednesday spent more than an hour in a Duluth harborfront warehouse talking about iron ore and copper mining, trade and his relentless effort to cut government regulations.
In one of his patented "roundtable'' discussions, Trump was in friendly territory with about 200 supporters - many of them representing mining, construction and shipping interests - gathered in a spruced-up Lake Superior Warehousing building in the shadow of the Blatnik Bridge.
Trump talked about renegotiating trade deals to put American interests first, and he praised his administration's efforts to slash government regulations across the breadth of the nation's economy, including mining.
Trump heralded the nation's low unemployment and predicted the economic boom would continue and that America and Minnesota would keep on "winning."
"We're putting America first. We're respected again as a country," Trump said to rousing applause. "We've been taken advantage of for too many years and it's not happening any more."
He specifically highlighted the strength of iron mining - and industry with a heavy presence in Northeastern Minnesota.
"Iron mining is really booming now with what we're doing,'' Trump added. "We're making a big difference."
Kelsey Johnson, executive director of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, credited Trump's aggressive trade and tariff policies with protecting the domestic steel industry that is fed by Minnesota taconite iron ore.
"That has been a real benefit for this area,'' said Johnson, who was on a panel of about a dozen officials and Steelworkers sitting with Trump.
Adam Morse, who works at U.S. Steel's Minntac facility in Mountain Iron, also was on the panel.
"I'd like to thank you for your America-first policies,'' Morse said.
St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber of Hermantown - the Republican candidate for 8th District Congress - told Trump Northeastern Minnesota is "on the cusp of something big'' by opening up copper-nickel mining in the state for the first time, including the proposed PolyMet and Twin Metals projects.
Trump pledged his support for pushing those copper projects through.
"We're working very hard to open up that area'' to copper mining, Trump said. "We'll get it done."
Babbitt Mayor Andrea Zupancich asked Trump to stop a possible withdrawal of federal lands near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from any kind of mining. The withdrawal of Superior National Forest was being studied on order from the Obama administration but already has been scaled-back by the Trump administration.
"We have a lot to gain and even more to lose if this doesn't happen,'' Zupancich said of a potential copper mining boom for the region.
Later, at a Trump political rally for Stauber at Amsoil Arena, Trump said his administration was in the final stages of taking the federal land withdrawl off the table entirely.
Ray Klosowski, president of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority board, told Trump the current economic boom is boosting the Twin Ports' profile as a shipping center and adding more cargo than ever before - with more jobs centered around the port and transferring cargo between ships, rail cars and trucks. That includes 300 new jobs at Altec Inc. that builds reach trucks.
"It's all because of the economic boom,'' Klosowski said.
Craig Jussila, a shiploader at Cliffs Natural Resources' NorthShore Mining in Silver Bay, praised Trump for his efforts to impose not just sanctions but steep tariffs on imported steel, a move praised by the domestic steel and iron ore industries.
Jussila, also a Two Harbors city councilor, said he was among the thousands of Iron Range mining industry workers laid off when the global iron ore market sunk in 2014.
"We don't have to worry about that anymore,'' he said. "We appreciate your commitment to the trade enforcement."
Trump said he would continue his assault on the federal bureaucracy - including environmental regulations that impact mining - claiming his administration cut more federal rules in 500 days than any president before him over any time.
That's just fine with St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson of Fayal Township.
"We're sick and tired of bureaucrats telling us what we can do with the lands that we cherish,'' said Nelson, who was on the panel.
"I agree with that 100 percent,'' Trump said.
After the rally opponents of copper mining near the BWCAW slammed Trump's support for copper mining in the region.
“President Trump’s comments fly in the face of 70 percent of Minnesotans who are opposed to this dangerous type of mining near the priceless Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness,'' said Doug Niemela, national campaign manager for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, in a statement.