Cliffs CEO: Minnesota mine will close without mineral rights

Nov 18, 2022, 8:45 AM | Updated: 10:21 am

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The CEO of Cleveland-Cliffs says an iron ore mine in northern Minnesota will close in a few years if it doesn’t get mineral rights from a nearby project that hasn’t been completed.

Hibbing Taconite, which is owned by Cleveland-Cliffs, is expected to run out of iron ore around 2025. Cleveland-Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves said Thursday that his company needs the rights from the Mesabi Metallics project to keep the operation going, the Star Tribune reported.

The state of Minnesota terminated Mesabi Metallics’ mineral rights after the company missed the deadline for a $200 million down payment to finish the taconite plant near Nashwauk. The state plans to reassign the leases.

Goncalves said if Cleveland Cliffs secures the leases, the Hibbing mine’s operations will be extended by about 27 years.

“I believe we are getting close,” Goncalves said at a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce event in Minneapolis. “I believe we are one Supreme Court decision away.”

Mesabi Metallics has asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to review a state Court of Appeals’ ruling that favored terminating the company’s leases. If the Supreme Court declines to take the case, the state Department of Natural Resources would reassign the leases. U.S. Steel has also shown interest.

The DNR said it hasn’t decided how it will release the Nashwauk ore.

In an interview with reporters after his speech, Goncalves said that “if the Minnesota Supreme Court does not take the case — we expect that to happen — I believe the next thing will be sitting down with the DNR to finalize a deal … If they put to bid, I am not even going to bid. So whoever wins, I don’t give a rat’s behind.”

He said any winning bidder will simply tie up the land and its minerals and do nothing with them.

Hibbing Taconite, an economic anchor in Minnesota’s Iron Range, employs 750 people.

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Cliffs CEO: Minnesota mine will close without mineral rights