Local View: Mining isn't Minnesota's future; natural resources are

From the column: "Mining companies have shown from the very beginning that they are indifferent to their workers and our communities and focus only on their profits."

(File / News Tribune)

Once again, the mining industry has shown its true colors. This time it is Cleveland-Cliffs, which decided to lay off hundreds of workers because it feels it is paying too much (“Cliffs to idle Northshore Mining as fight over royalty fees intensifies, scrap metal lessens need for pellets,” Feb. 11).

Cleveland-Cliffs pays royalties on what it mines in lieu of taxes. Taxes support our schools; provide for our police services; and maintain our roads, water systems, and more.

Mining companies have shown from the very beginning that they are indifferent to their workers and our communities and focus only on their profits. Last year, the company made a profit of $3 billion on $20.4 billion in revenue, which its chief executive proclaimed to be an “absolute success.” In spite of the company taking ore from our ground and reaping handsome profits, it will not share its success adequately with workers or the community that supports it.

Time and again, the Iron Range has been advised to diversify its economy and preserve its natural beauty rather than continuing to rely on outside mining companies which are strictly in the exploitation business. In 2018, a Harvard University study recommended precisely that but was ignored.

The same year, we recommended that the state government move some of its operations and employees to the Iron Range and utilize this as an opportunity to attract other business ventures.


Frankly, this is still worth pursuing. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, for instance, has more than 3,000 employees mostly in the Twin Cities area, which is a considerable distance from the activities they oversee, such as hunting, fishing, and the preservation of natural habitat. Additionally, the relocation of DNR employment would serve as a catalyst to attract a multitude of complementary growth to drive local economies. The Iron Range needs and deserves a much broader and deeper diversification to maintain a more sustainable and vibrant future.

Further, this partial dispersal of state employees would provide our government with a broader perspective when public policy is developed and would help lessen the Twin Cities vs. non-Twin Cities tensions that currently exist.

One thing is certain, and that is that the future of this region is not with the Cleveland-Cliffs, Glencores, and PolyMets of the world but rather is in preserving MInnesota’s greatest strengths: its natural resources and its people.

Tom Berkelman of Plymouth, Minnesota, was a DFL state representative from Duluth from 1977 to 1983. Arne Carlson of Lake City, Minnesota, was the 37th governor of Minnesota from 1991 to 1999. Wintering in Florida, they wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

Arne Carlson.jpg
Gov. Arne Carlson
Tom Berkelman.jpg
Tom Berkelman

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