A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from City Hall in Nashwauk. Program highlights the history, current state, and future of mining in the Iron Range. MPR’s Catherine Winter, Martin Kaste present reports from MPR’s Rachel Reabe and Mark Steil. Following reports, a panel discussion with Doug Schrader, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota; and Bob Roots, lobbyist for United Steel Workers, about mining jobs and future industry. The panel also answers audience and listener questions.
Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.
You're listening to a special Main Street radio broadcast coming to you live from City Hall in nashwauk there a couple of dozen people here in nashwauk historical city hall building and I'm Catherine winter here with Martin costume. If you look out over some of the enormous pits and mountains on the Mesabi Range. It's astounding to think that that much Rock was moved without modern machines. The first mines were worked by people and horses and then by steam engines today mining operations are much more high-tech Main Street radio reporter Rachel reabe visited one of the seven Minds on the Range and prepared this report.Set 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. 600000 tons of tag and I have just been exploded kicking up a bank of black smoke that stretches high in the winter Sky the simultaneous detonation of 150 explosive pack holes as turn this field of solid rock into a stretch of rock chunks the first step in the arduous process of mining iron ore the blasts of a weekly Occurrence at Hibbing taconite the second largest mine on Minnesota's iron rain with 950 employees to keep the grinding Mills working at capacity workers labor Around the Clock everyday of the year to produce 8 million tons of taconite pellets, annually. The landscape surrounding the sprawling plant buildings in Hibbing taconite is rugged and marked with Rockledge has a varying Heights the elevations change rapidly as The Rock is systematically blast and then hauled away the huge 240 ton trucks with 12 foot tires that carry off the rock chunks to the Grinders belt black smoke as they labor up and down the rough gravel roads, Steve zeitler of Hibbing taconite stands at the base of one of the six mountains of or currently being mined at the 30,000 Acres facility a couple of inches of taconite that have already been removed there about 50 feet high and that shovel with its 18-yard Dipper will fill these college trucks in in about seven passes. After a hundred years of mining there was still an abundance of War available in northeastern Minnesota Hibbing taconite geologist, Henry Journal of says that while the demand for Tack and I'd has declined in the last Dozen Years the supply on the Iron Range remain strong enough or here at the grades that we would need to operate for the next three hundred years. It is one of the largest deposits of iron ore in the world in and will probably continue to be that that was deposited two billion years ago in Minnesota was thought to have precipitated out of the shallow seas that cover the area it's concentrated in a band about a mile and a half wide and just over a hundred miles long in northeastern Minnesota Journal of says their job is to separate the iron from the Rockets trapped in it. Looks like some light green bands and some grayish to to almost black bands. This is a material. We're after that's magnetite and magnetite is the iron mineral. That is magnetic. This is the the 30% if we're lucky and that's the waste material. That's a 70% these rocks need to be crushed to powder finest in order to separate the magnetic particles from the waste material. It happens in two stages first. The rocks are loaded into a Crusher where they're broken into 10 inch chunks, then they move into one of the grinding Mills where the or will reduce itself to powder water is added to the process. So the or can be transported in slurry form to Magnetic separators where iron-bearing particles are separated from the waist Ramona Pageant and oversees the cavernous dimly-lit Second Story of the plant where the magnetic particles averaging 67% iron are snapped off filters. I am work on the equipment. I replace a worn-out big bags of the filter bags when they wear out. I have to take them off and then I have to so the new one back on my husband works out here and then my got a brother-in-law and my husband's cousins and second cousins pageant in one of about fifty women employed and so-called non-typical jobs at the Hibbing plan has worked here 18 years. She said she gets tired of the dirt and dust of her work environment, but it's the best paying jobs. You can get with a high school education mining jobs are still the highest paying industry jobs in the state of Minnesota averaging over $36,000 annually per worker. Hibbing taconite twenty-four-hour-a-day operating schedule produces about twenty-four thousand tons of taconite pellets that are loaded twice a day on the train is Bound for Lake Superior. The half-inch pellets are formed when the magnetic particles are mixed with Clay the process is so computerized the sprawling plant seems almost deserted. Even on a weekday on this floor where the pellets tumbledown conveyor belts on their way to the furnace. The only person around is a maintenance mechanic checking on one of the machines. Steve zeitler says the process is monitored by computers that see I've been trying for our coming off of this while in drive and this is the gallons per minute of water Edition. And those are all that's an automated process controls. These are the readout for that don't currently 59 hundred people employed in Minnesota's iron mines a sharp drop from the 15,000 the work there doesn't years ago. Despite the 60% rule. Workers taconite production dropped only slightly for 45 million tonnes annually to 40 tonnes Duluth Economist Gerald Peterson attributes that jump and productivity to improved equipment and more efficient Workforce. If productivity continues to grow will probably see employment in that industry continuing to decline a loss of additional maybe almost been additional 12 1300 jobs by the year 2000. What's a 3 in the next decade also means Minnesota producers were able to hold down there cause Steve zeitler at Hibbing taconite says reasonably priced pellets have help them stay competitive on the World Market if we don't That's the bottom line experts predicted by the year 2000 windling steel consumption will reduce the World Market for iron ore by 10 million tons. Annually the mining industry in Minnesota hopes there 7 plants will be efficient and competitive enough to stay in business. I'm Rachael Ray B Main Street radio in Hibbing There's a lot of iron ore left in northeastern Minnesota. But economics May price it out of the World Market for the short-term experts say most Minnesota plants are competitive and there's a chance new jobs. Maybe may be created as the steel industry changes, but many experts believe the best the mining industry. Can hope for is to maintain employment at its current level Main Street radio reporter Mark style. Has that story Minnesota iron production is under pressure as never before from foreign competition and the changing us steel industry. The Iron Range has remain competitive by cutting production costs and doubling worker productivity over the last decade Rod bleifus has helped in that effort. He directs the University of Minnesota's mineral research laboratory in Coleraine, which is come up with ways to cut taconite production costs that we keep talking about this being a dinosaur industry and it's dying and all of that get into it and look at it in detail. See what's going on in these various plants. Can you find some of the most sophisticated technology out there is being applied on the plants on the rain does it not a backward industry that's not a dying industry still the and maybe Insight easily accessible taconite may be gone in a few decades were looking at a circle a lifetime expectancy of 40 years are at the present rate of exploitation and all that goes really depends on what kind of Technology develops over the next 10 or 20 years. And how fast were exported even with technological improvements though foreign competitors like Venezuela Brazil and Canada are major threat one big reason Minnesota attacking that companies have been able to stay in business are the Great Lakes life is says this Transportation Advantage allows them to beat foreign competition most of the time and delivering iron pellets to steel mills near the Lakes. We can easily be competitive down at the lower leg poor. It's like a Cleveland and Gary in Chicago and places like that. Beyond that we moved to Eastern Seaboard or any of the other still making facilities. They are can be serviced more economically by overseas ballots. Then we can meet that kind of competition at the present time in overseas Pelican almost compete in the Chicago area and it's sort of the break-even deal right now. Minnesota's dependence on Great Lakes Mills is hurt by dramatic changes in the nation steel industry 20 years ago us companies had too many outdated blast furnaces too many workers and too many managers Michigan State University Professor. Peter Kanekalon says by trimming employment and improving Blast Furnace efficiency u.s. Steel companies once again or competitive on the World Market, but the game that had a price the industry's downsizing a lot and you type of Steel company to gain a major part of the market with important implications for Minnesota Iron Range, the new steel companies use electric Arc furnace is known as many meals to melt scrap instead of Minnesota iron into a variety of Steel products. Mini Mills currently produce a third of a Nation steel and could produce half by the turn of the century calculus says they've been able to gain market share by developing new technology to improve the quality of their product. It allows the many mils to make a sheet steel that's of a higher quality so that they can they are starting to encroach on the appliance Market in the automobile Market. Those are big air quality markets for steel this type of Steel cannot be made using only scrap metal. It's not pure enough that presents an opportunity for Minnesota Iron Range to make high-quality steel mini meal supplement melted scrap with nearly pure iron right now. The iron comes from overseas producers, but many believe it can be made on Minnesota Iron Range charlotte-based Nucor Corporation is the leader of the mini Mill Revolution Nucor his build a plant in Trinidad to produce high-grade iron known as direct reduced iron ore dri2 Sweden. Scrap steel Nucor President John. Kennedy says his company needs much more iron than the Trinidad plant can produce and says One Source, maybe Minnesota. One of them is that weren't wearing in conversations. Now with Cypress North shark for the possibility of doing a joint venture with ourselves and them and a couple of other steel companies says the idea is to refine taconite to a product containing 90% iron compared to 65% iron in Minnesota's traditional taconite palette. Cypress North Shore reopen the old Reserve Mining facility in Silver Bay four years ago. My ground is media relations manager for Cypress parent company in Denver Cypress. A mix Mineral Company round says the company has most of the necessary state permits to produce a d r i e says what's lacking is approval by the parent company to fund a new plant. This whole idea and it's it's a long ways from fruition, although up to now it has appeared to be promising even if a deal right plant comes to Minnesota though. It won't be an Iron Range savior steel analyst Peter Kanekalon says that best it's another sign of a decreasing importance of Minnesota's iron ore that's because Dr. I makes up only ten or twenty percent of each ton of high quality steel, please buy many meals. The rest is scrap steel substituted for traditional iron pellets like those produced in Minnesota or it really means that there is less demand for the conventional or and it's not a one-to-one trade-off. It's about one ton of direct reduced or means about five tons of conventional or not needed necklace says that trade-off means Dr. Ayat best can we play some jobs lost in the traditional pellet industry, but not all of them. He says it's possible. Nor to Iron Range plants will close before the century ends because of reduced pallet demand. But even with that scenario calculus is Minnesota iron ore is not a dying industry. We're still talking. 50 + million tons of War being produced in this country and 3/4 of that is in Minnesota. So that's still a large large volume there still a possibility to that there could be other types of mining on the Range to replace jobs lost in the iron ore industry in Arizona company Aeromexico is actively exploring the possibility of opening a copper nickel mine in Northeast, Minnesota. A company official says it's early research is promising but says aramik goes a long way from opening an operation that sort of talk has been heard before in Northeast Minnesota with copper nickel and also other minerals ranging from gold to titanium steel many mining officials believe there will come a time when it becomes economically possible to open up new mining operations on the Iron Range. This is Mark Style Main Street. Radio. You're listening to a special Main Street radio broadcast live from nashwauk. I Martin Koski here with Catherine winter storage City Hall a beautiful building with hardwood floors throughout and beautiful woodwork there about two dozen people here sitting watching our program and joining us now our Doug shrawder president of the iron mining Association of Minnesota and Bob Roots, who is a lobbyist for the United steelworkers. Thanks to both of you for coming. Let's first start by going to our panelists and let me ask that the two of you are new panelist Doug Schroeder and Barbara. I wonder having talked with a lot of people who work at National steel or worked at National steel who are are confident that the plant will open again are iron Rangers unreasonably optimistic that a boom is always going to come after a bust. Do you think do you think that the that the region is making a comeback when I think one important things as I've listened to the discussion today that needs to be spelled by no means has the integrated steel industry of banded the attack and eye palette and by no means are any of the existing companies that are on the Range and operating to date have plans to abandon their production as a matter of fact all the plans and I'm aware of her for doing everything. They can to Garner Capital to improve the quality of those pallets and to reduce the cost of the pellet. So while there has been discussion about an overabundance of pallets in North America by no means would this supposed 10 million ton Surplus have to come out of the state of Minnesota. You could force closure of Canadian operations or even possibly, Michigan Operations so that's the approach that we've taken operations for instance taxed much less than Minnesota operations orders that go into the cost component of of a Peloton in the production and its competitiveness in the international market place and why we may have a a big cost disadvantage in the area of tax is currently there are a lot of other factors that come into play and and there are a lot of advantages that I think we do have here in Minnesota that maybe the Canadians in Michigan operations might not have I'd like to respond to that if I could you mentioned in this kind of goes to some of the discussion. I heard earlier about the IEEE Barbie and the type of projects they invest in the tax rate in Michigan is lower and it's a travesty what happened in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan if you travel there and take a look at the infrastructure in the towns and the cities of Upper, Michigan, there is no That was attacked the industry took the minerals out of that ground and they didn't have a system like the IEEE are being legislators. Like the perfect is Andrew Covina and Joe baggage to make the mining industry leave something behind and we can be proud of the infrastructure. That's your on the Iron Range. And whenever that that comes up, it's a real sore point is I have heard the accusations leveled that why the the reason Minnesota plants are are too expensive or not competitive is it is because of the strong labor history here. Is there any truth to that that's a fallacy attacking I'd industry is not a labor-intensive industry laborers a very small cost of producing a ton of pellets Hibbing taconite, for example, the The average is about 5 tons per man-hour worked in the steel industry itself steel making process they talk. Tons of an Amana hours per ton of Steel in this industry. We actually produced 5 tons for every man or work. It's not a labor-intensive. If you if you cut the cost of Labor by a dollar-an-hour you only affect the price of a ton of pellets by $0.20 and on and on a $250 per ton finished product to steal. Your impact is only $0.30 labor is not the major component energy materials transportation as a major components. I think there's no question that there's been a lot of overstated about the negative relations that supposedly exist on the range with with the steelworkers in and it has not been my experience in the last 2 years that that's been an impediment quite to the contrary. I think we've seen a major change and it's been a major initiative of mine to open up and work with organizations like the IEEE RB to open up and welcome participation of our employees United steelworkers, and my experience has been very positive in that regard and I think there are lots of good examples around the United States were organized labor Weatherby. The United steelworkers are Auto Workers or other unions have recognized the fact that manufacturing and in this case the iron ore industry has to compete in the international market place and they are doing things to address. Dad to change the traditional confrontational type of work rules and in negotiations that had taken place in the past and quite frankly. I think we're working very proactively with the United steelworkers and I'm very happy about the prospects for the years to come Main Street reporter. Rachel reabe has gone into our audience here in nashwauk and has a microphone now with one of the people listening. I have Wayne Impala with me. He is a nashwauk resident and it's been 20 years in the mines with Butler and more recently with national. He has been concerned with some of the information that's been presented by the panel today. Wanted to respond to that. Well Aid I want to direct to a response from director Gustafson. I was a proud employee of Butler tech for 11 years upon closure and contractor what you said young man. You have your opinion, but it was the most productive plant on the Range. It was Pride of the range and it didn't close because of productivity are you are at work. It wasn't competitive anymore. It closed because of a bankruptcy of one of the partners and then another one of the partners was Inland Steel in North Virginia had its own plant and a mining company want to run that property. So I just wanted to clarify that it was a productive plant and economically from with other companies is why that point closed Ask you is there a do you think there is a sort of a blame the worker mentality in the in the problem that the Rangers facing? You think so? I don't think that's true. There's a in any situation. There's there you look at it what's happening? And you look at the the players who are involved in and there's blame to go around on everybody but add by the way, what am I want to make a comment on what was just sit in the audience? It's absolutely true. That that was not that was not a decision made on economics hear that was made that was made on that. I doubt it Eastern decision. Again that affected the workers on the ranch and clarifies that what you meant, I did make reference to the fact that we had to high cost producers National steel and and the Eveleth taconite and I wasn't necessarily A directed towards the workforce there. They they were both the it's well known that they were too high cost producers. The fact is that the both of those plants have made giant strides in reducing their car. Unfortunately as I mentioned Nationals now closed down and we hope to see it a reconstituted by test. Director Gustafson. This is what you want to plant is not closer. It is idle and we will be speaking with the company on February 1st. I don't know if you're aware of this. The plan is not closer its idled. There is a news item out today that there will be discussions going on again between that plant and its workers. And so there is still, you know, the question of whether it will open again and there have been company officials who have suggested that the closure is permanent. However, so remains to be seen remains to be seen what will happen with national, you know, speaking about winning play just said that that's true. It isn't technically closed in and I think that we are going to all work very very hard way in to see that we can do everything possible to try to keep that plant open and I don't often defend Jim Gustafson, but I will in this case say that I know that he is at work. And also very hard I presently to see that something can happen there and we know that the defroster District 33 steelworker a director and representing for Janice. It's just returned from from Japan and I guess I said, they were cautiously optimistic. So perhaps something can happen soon and that we haven't given up. Hope on the trampoline. Duct rodder from the Imad the iron mining Association of America Howell, realistic in the case of national steel is the whole perhaps of it reopening as a direct reduced iron technology as we've mentioned in the piece earlier. Is that still a possibility? To be quite Frank Martin. I have not participated in any of those discussions and I think it'd be all advised on my part to comment on that. The only thing I would like to say on the whole discussion about tries, I think there is an opportunity to participate in that Marketplace, which the Iron Range currently is not participating in the only concern that I have in that and I and I think we should go forward and explore every opportunity that we have to develop a new industry here in to diversify somewhat from from the traditional tacnight pot. But I the only concern that I have in that is that we forget, you know our backbone of our industry in the end. Like I said earlier this industry is going to be around for a long time. You would have to ask yourself. Why are the tack and I companies investing over 80 million dollars just in this year coming to improve their facilities and why are there millions of dollars in research being spent to improve the quality of the of the pellet and that's that's a great hurdle that I think from a public perception that were concerned about that. We don't want people to turn their back on the existing industry at the expense of a hope for a new industry. Even at best all the predictions I've heard. Talking about a potential for maybe five to six million tons of d r i l that's a far cry from what we're at now at 40 million tons of of pelis so I don't want the attention to be diverted there in just one other comment on that. Mr. Garvey who's the president of North Star Steel has visited the range several times in the last year and has spoke very aggressively about the encroachment of the Mini Melts into the traditional Marketplace of the integrated producer and that's flat products steel and I'm here to tell you and I used to be a melter for a minute one of the co-op shops in East Chicago Dylan. I'm here to tell you that that encroachment as they swept through the low end of the steel business is true. But when you talk about getting into the flat products business, I don't think you're going to see the rapid takeover of that market place that people like, mr. Garvey would want us to believe and keep in mind that the integrated produce. Are not sitting still there working their tails off to improve their technology to make higher grades and higher qualities of Steel to satisfy a Marketplace. That's traditionally then there's the auto in the appliances in Industry that the electric Arc furnace makers are a long ways away from capturing. Plus they plan on going back and and trying to recapture some of the marketplace that they lost in the low end of the business. So it's not a hopeless Case by any means for the taconite palette. Go ahead. What's your question please for comment do we have a caller still there? Do anybody on the panel is all about reducing the inflammatory rhetoric in the behavior of politicians union leaders in their followers against their own companies. and against business in general isn't a Better Business climate up here and Northeastern Minnesota crucial to maintaining current taconite plans building the new high-tech plants, which have redesigned pellets for Dr. I encourage it as well as encouraging CEOs of the established companies the bill satellite plans here rather than elsewhere. That's the first question. Can I give you the second with the OB outcome-based education baby and not ready yet and the rather mediocre science math programs up here and inflated grades and SAT scores, which may be somewhat better than another stage, but are still low, especially in science and math. How about returning to the old days when excellence and academics? Was it Mark like excellence? Sports is not going to help me and hitting the miner mining industry in attracting satellite plants have established companies that Catherine. Can I take that one? This is Nina cir. First of all, let me, Tanya inflammatory rhetoric that because in the last three years, I would say at the state legislature. It's it's been steel workers who have come down and who have a made a big difference in in reducing taxes and and and in reducing the electrical costs Transportation cost for the mining industry realizing that if they don't make a profit these steelworkers don't have a job and I set the steel workers have gotten a bad rap for that. They're very small part of the formulas far as the expense of the cost of the total Peloton. In fact if I'm not mistaken and mr. Roach Incorrect me. I think a lot of Steel Workers on the Range are just up to wages. Now in the last contract that they were making a decade ago. I am I not the correct Bob because they've given up up to $2 an hour and helping out there companies but the 15 there was an article Catherine in the Minneapolis Tribune on Monday talking about the the iron mining industry said the let the, you know how to approve of the capital from Instax. We're getting we're giving 15 and 1/2 cents of our production tax back to the industry if they invested up here and it was the steel worker that got that and the Iron Range delegation that got that credit for those that companies are the energy programme sip program that can help by the attack and save a lot of costs and power and energy cost. It was the unfortunately this whole thing was led by people from National steel of steel workers from National steel at the Watch the help their company and now we we see what's happened. But that it was those folks that came down and got a lot of these program The Iron Range delegation contract was being anti-mining gave a two-million-dollar grant program to each mining company so that they would invest back up here and invest in keep their plants competitive sir. As far as Obi education, you know, this program isn't about that. But just let me say that the, you know the kids today maybe and I can remember my dad and mother lamenting about some of the things I did and we every generation says that by and large are our kids up here are great kids and I think they're hard students so they study hard and they do good and I think if you compare today what they're doing with the what you and the others did their your predecessors hear that there were just as intelligent and work just as hard in the schools. Why don't you know I'd like to ask if this is clearly an emotional issue would get people very stirred up and especially recently with the idling of the national steel plant. What's going to happen to the people who have been thrown out of work what's being done to try to in case that plant never opens again, where will those people go? And what will they do? Maybe you can tell us who are the steelworkers doing something to try to help their own credible amount of paperwork still going and meetings going on between Pittsburgh Mishawaka and the range. I don't think that any point we've looked at this as a closed facility. We're looking that this isn't this a facility where unfortunately decision was made the lockout 640 and at this time we're looking at that they're going back to work in some capacity. We do have many programs in the state. Thanks to the efforts of the range delegation in the unions in the state has a tremendous dislocated worker program, but we're not looking at these people is dislocated workers. Now, we're looking in those people who are going to go back to work as I mentioned that Katherine last year 140 people got laid off by believe 144 Mind's Eye see one of their Executives in the audience and I understand and talking to some of the people at jobs and training that up significant number of those folks have the phone jobs at the other thing that can dye plants not meant a cat u.s. Steel has been doing some hiring iltv over in Aurora. Right Lakes has been hiring. I don't know if hip pack is Bob is indicating. Yes. Also that hit that guy has they've increased their production some lecta and they've hired some of these that laid off Miners and that's the very very good and we're glad that they're doing that. Well, this is a large and complicated emotional issue as Katherine has mentioned we'd like to move on before our time runs out to another issue concerning the mines the question of environmental impact of the entire industry hear the Quest for iron ore forever change the landscape of Northeastern Minnesota and as the mines go deeper and wider huge red-sided Hills grew up where once they've been flat ground. This altered landscape has admirers. However, Peter less check is a writer. Native of Chisholm in the heart of the Iron Range in this excerpt from his book bumming with the furies. Let's check tells of leaving Chisholm for college at his first look at home from a distance. It was 1970 the year of Earth Day and The Nativity of a widespread environmental Consciousness. I was fired with the Zeal of a crusader and possessed that Clarity of vision that sure awareness of right and wrong characteristic of zealots. I had no doubt with pollution was in the Battle lines were drawn in black and white They were reams of new literature available on the subject of ecological damage and one of the booklets. I found was a depressing little survey entitled our polluted Planet. It was profusely Illustrated with photos of environmental nightmares oil spills Smog and shrouded cities putrid Rivers. These were typical examples and I leave for the book that quickly until I came to a particular photo the purported to display a real ravaged landscape and I recognized it immediately. It was the hull rust mine in Hibbing only a few miles from my home town. I was shocked the mines were pollution why I thought they were beautiful red and maroon mountains and Gorges that have been playgrounds for my friends and me fast arenas for childhood games and Fantasies get the pamphleteers considered them disaster areas. How could that be? Peter less check reading from bumming with the furies a hundred years of mining 5 billion tons of ore taken from the ground on Minnesota's 3 Iron ranges the Vermilion the cuyuna and the Mesabi the Mesabi Range is in 90 mile spread of man-made mountains and canyons and lakes mining built cities and schools and provided thousands of jobs to the range. But what has been the environmental price of prosperity lady finger reports. 50 miles up the shore from Duluth Lake Superior Breakers sweep steadily against icy rocks. Just south of Silver Bay. It's snowing hard at the snow mixes with Steve rising from the lake and with heavy steam coming off the Cypress minerals taconite plant at the water's edge the plant used to be owned by Reserve Mining and its flanks what still the most obvious environmental miscalculation committed by the taconite industry in Minnesota climb to a high place along the rugged Shore and you'll see the wide Brown Delta of taconite waste reaching out into Superior Duluth teacher and environmentalist Alden Lynn. I was 12 years old and I can still remember the original request in 1947 by Reserve Mining Company to the state of Minnesota for permits to allow The Dumping of the of the killings in Lake Superior. I remember my father in particular being very troubled at that time. Lim's family has been in the resort business on the North Shore since the early 1940s. No one knew what the dangers were when Reserve began dumping into the lake in 1953. No one knew that the vein of taconite Mind by Reserve held microscopic asbestos, like fibers dangerous to life both in water. And on land for years reserve poured waste rock into the Waters of Silver Bay at the rate of 67000 tons per day a peninsula of tailings rose and spread Lynn recalls the date a neighbor and fellow Resorter approached his parents to organize against reserve and Melton said something's got to be done that people's tropical fish are dying a goldfish are dying birch trees around East Beaver Bay and between East Beaver band Silver Bay are dying and there are these clouds of green water in the lake and somebody's got to do something to stop there jumping in the Lake Superior by the time the dumping did stop years and millions of dollars in court costs later Reserve mining had become an object lesson for American industry when it went out of business it left a Legacy of hazardous taylex intact in the lake and questions about what should be done when a company can't pay for the damage it does. At the US steel minntac operation in Mountain Iron the biggest aconite plant in North America wet taconite tailings drop from an overhead conveyor into the bed of a truck the size of a two-story house. The tailings are dark gray ground finest flower from here. They'll be trucked half a mile to min tax disposal Basin essentially a man-made lake covering 14 square miles in Tech workers are quick to point out that these feelings are free of the asbestos like material that made reserves waste. So hazardous Reserve mind and isolated vein of ore believed to be unique and containing the dangerous fibers. Most of the other on the Mesabi Range says Brian dahlin is benign by comparison The Rock itself is chemically very clean. It's not like a gold miner of us lead sulfide. Mine were you were taking large amounts of rock and then have the danger of getting large large chemical contaminants from it. I think it's just amazing that here. We are grind up about 50 million tons to flower. And yet there's no adverse chemicals released in that operation deline is an instructor in a new employee education program started by men Tech called site for continuous Improvement to environment. The program takes individual responsibility as its premise the idea that if everyone is willing to report oil spills or to properly recycle old rags and cardboard cartons, the company itself will run more efficiently and with a stringent environmental conscience. Jane Kingston is an environmental engineer at mintek Pete burdeles a 17-year employee who's been through the 3-day program typically begin with environmental concerns. Of course, we're not even part of the plan now, they have been imposed in some cases some of the rules and regulations for sit so that maybe initially we were you know, companies were kicking and screaming and going along with things and of the significant change here at minntac is getting into the proactive mindset rather than putting out fires and reacting to Incidents and trying to fix them after they've occurred. We're going to have to work harder as a company. We're going to have to say Okay, we can't ignore a problem anymore. If a guy comes to do weave shop 9 the floor down here. We're going to have to do something about it. We can just sit. Well put a bucket under it or throw some floor dry at it, but hopefully what will come out with the management end of it will also see my chest piece of equipment down and fix it today. Let's not put it off the site program has already racked up some small success has a four-person crew has been appointed to do nothing but clean up oil spills and repair leaky machinery and Men techno orders far less lubricating oil than it did a year ago. Brian deline says $1000000 a year might be saved in fuel and energy bills and other taconite companies have begun to take notice. But there are those who say that environmentally responsible workers don't necessarily translate into a similarly responsible industry former federal district judge Myles Lord presided over much of the reserve. Mining case and says the experience took away his faith in American Business jobs prevail. Jobs, but my friend Hubert Humphrey said miles and got to have jobs. They got to dig some holes. Well, I could dig the holes without doing the damage and they could even fill the Halls. I have watched Corporate America and they'll say whatever has to be said to make a profit one result of the reserve case is a widespread concern that the industry pay for any environmental harm. It does compared with other mining regions, especially those focused on non-ferrous metals like copper and nickel Minnesota's taconite business has caused relatively little environmental damage. There's been some Reclamation for years. Some companies have fertilized and seated old mining dumps many or piles now look almost like naturally wooded Hills and water filled pits resemble natural lakes to bolster those efforts the state DNR last year appointed a task force to study of plan of so-called Financial Assurance for the taconite industry Task Force member Deirdre Decker says the plan would require taconite companies to pay into a fund set aside to reclaim Old Mines Insurance in the Private Marketplace. It's just not available to them. Why should we the taxpayers effectively ensure and Industry that private insurance won't cover Assurance program wouldn't be the first to make Minds plan for eventual cleanup taconite companies are already paying into a fund administered by the IEEE RB. In fact environmental engineers at mint X8 Financial Assurance is just another word for government double-dipping and the company doesn't like it but environmentalist point out that once upon a time most people thought it was harmless for Reserve money to poor tailings into Lake Superior, but even now advances in science and technology notwithstanding, no one knows what hidden cost there might be the task force will make recommendations to the state legislature in June Lei finger Main Street radio. You're listening to a special Main Street radio broadcast live from nashwauk. I'm Catherine winter here with Martin Koski and I'd like to ask Doug Schroeder who is here representing the iron mining Association of Minnesota. I have heard a complaint that environmental restrictions on iron mines in Minnesota drive up the cost is that true take a look at federal regulations and certainly some of the state regulations that are being proposed last year in the session and again this year in the session. We have some major concerns about are toxic regulations, which I would virtually put this industry out of business if they are passed in their current form, and I think we're United certainly with the steelworkers on that position and and other labor organizations and Industry across the state. I'm a little bit disappointed that there was so much fungus on the reserve case because I can tell you that there have been millions of Dollar spent in in addressing environmental concerns were creating Wetlands. We're doing many many things in a very proactive way. That's not to take a take away and turn our backs on problems that date back to the Natural or days, but currently our operations are are doing everything that they can to be environmentally responsible. And I think the US steel minntac program that was discussed a few minutes ago. It's probably a leader in that type of a program, not only in this industry, but in Industry across the United States questions today from collars over the telephone and also for members of our audience if I can ask, I know there are a few people waiting on the phone if I can ask you to be patient for just a couple more minutes. We'd like to go to Main Street reporter Rachel reabe who is out in our audience talking with the with a member of the audience Rachel Catherine. I have Lynn gangle with me. She is married to a third. Generation minor in nashwauk one of the miners that has been idled by national Lynn tell us what it feels like to be at this place in your life. You tell me that you're working three jobs to keep food on the table. Yes. I am. We went through this back in 1985. I believe it was and at that time I was working three part-time jobs. Also my husband like I like Rachel was saying he is a third-generation minor his father just recently retired from National his grandfather was employed at Butler and died in an accident at at Butler. So when they talk about the union making strides one of those strides is in safety for these workers, and he never knew his grandfather. What do you think people need to know Lynn about people in your position the rest of State listening to this? What do they need to know? I guess what they need to know is that being a strong Community helps? They shouldn't have the workers the families. They shouldn't have to move from this area into high crime areas such as you were talking before they like this area, but they shouldn't also have to take low-paying jobs where they get no insurance benefits. The school is is having serious problems right now, and it isn't just because of National Bank yulin. Okay. Thank you Rachel. Let's see how we still got some callers on the line waiting. Go ahead with your question, please go ahead. I'm sorry you are and I interrupted you and it's all my fault. But go ahead please calling as my family is basically from up in that area from Cloquet up to Cotton over to Keewatin down to the rap. And I have a lot of members of my family who basically are either under employed or unemployed. I'm an independent manufacturing and Facilities engineering Consulting here in the cities. And one of the things that I try to do is encourage my customers when they're looking at expansion and I've done with a facilities layout for them is to relocate or build their next planetary every time I have done that and probably the last four to eight years. I have run up against a brick wall because it's too strong and get this work Union Community there needs to be something done and it represents my relatives of re-educating the people that what they're looking out for is not the old Union style tactics in Manny's not even of the Union of baby say the thirties forties and fifties. There is a real difficulty in convincing very viable Industries to move up there because they have such a Negative. Perspective of the area from a union standpoint. I'll hang up and listen to your response on the radio. So tell her to Veena. Well, you know, I think perhaps we need to re-educate the rest of the states. And in that we are reasonable people who work extremely hard to make money for the people that employ us. And in return. We we want just a fair wage. That's all I just a fair wage. We are reasonable people as I said, it's been the union to have lead the fight in the last 3 years to to get us then I guess I mean the range delegation than in the other providers the mining industry to to help out that the company so we've got a highly educated Workforce. I think we haven't work ethic commission Augustus and mention earlier or absenteeism rate is Neil basically and I've heard that from employers all across the range on and that's the education we have to do and I think you know and I say this so very seriously that the media in Metro Minnesota has done a disservice. Is 2 in tire iron range at times with some of the Articles and that they published they only bring out at times the negative things and not the positive and it's very very hard for us to combat that you have a front page story on the Minneapolis Tribune War 2 million people read it. It's hard to come back after that. You know, so believe me. We are more than willing to cooperate and they all fall down any way possible to help a business that's willing to come up here and put their capital in our area and will also invest our capital and people power so that we can help them become a prophet book. Okay who had dibs to go next with that you Barbara? Okay, very simply the sum of the areas that were discussed here today. Just recently we talked about environmental are the union is very active in a program where that we're working with industry to look at these environmental regulations and fees at the state is thinking of imposing in and making sure that that that Necessary to protect the environment and at the same time we want to keep viable sustainable jobs on the rain. The union is very active in in in many areas that are non-confrontational with management and I just would like to say to anybody thinking of locating a business anywhere that they should come up here and meet with us directly myself or David Foster or anyone else in the current Union leadership up here because they be very surprised at how much work will do to try to accommodate that suffers from a bit of an image problem in the area of Union rhetoric and and the Lycan and some of it that largely is political rhetoric even down in the capital and I was there back in the back in the 80s. For example, I remember specifically going nose-to-nose with somebody from this delegation Nots season of my immediate right and my coming at the time had to do What's some minor tax provision and some assumptions about some employers and in what they would be doing not doing and I had to argue away at the top of my lungs that you'll not every employer in the state of Minnesota was Hannah money. There is a and antagonistic in historically antagonistic relationship between labor and management up here that that's changing somewhere but that's the perception and anecdotally that seems to be the experience that people want to spread rightly or wrongly net that has to change no question about it. I think the caller the caller was being candid. I'd also say in this is another problem in terms of a State political issue the jobs they would miles Lord had it had to say is is very true the jobs pressure almost a desperation. Sometimes that you sent in the arguments about the jobs in the face of environmental concerns increasingly. I think what you're seeing growing out large in the metro area again, but the environmental groups even with respect to a relatively benign, very large and Industry like that like the taconite industry. You see these reservations be Raised but it's not just that. I mean it's going to go beyond that. You're going to see it to its already come out in in the expansion of the logging industry in this area and those kinds of fights they're going on and up here. That's a jobs issue down there. You're hearing it as a as an environmental issue same thing with the expansion the possible expansion into copper mining which is much dirtier mining industry or environmentally speaking then then I are so you're going to see some wine being drawn that we really handsome John before I mean, I don't think of the people my relatives in the range in the sort that being polluters by any stretch of the imagination, but increasingly you start hearing about expansion of jobs up here. I am in those kinds of terms and I think you're going to see you arrange versus environmentalists kind of dichotomy happening. If there isn't some more education. I'm glad to see you though that that my my my former colleagues on Ravine and I at least degree in our assessment of Minneapolis paper. Not necessarily the comment about the Minnesota paper, but the environmental issues that you're a former legislative colleague has raised. Well, you know the been a very very environment clean industry as the as the report that indicated. It's fairly benign. Dennis Fritz said it is, you know, we're not going to do anything to jeopardize our beautiful resources up here the lakes that we have the water that we drink and we're not going to do that the are you know, I didn't send fortunate that the one of the things that we've done is a disservice to the mining industry, I think is the yeah, we we've implemented the federal Clean Air Act and it and how the Minnesota Pollution Control agency air quality division raises about 60 to 70% of the revenue off the 7 pack my plants up here. And by the way, they've implemented that program the fact of the matter is that water vapor right now that he mix from the plants and silica, which is nothing more than sand is Call Annette. Because of the way the federal laws written and some of the mining Industries have seen the fees of $5,000 in 1991. I believe it was go to close to $500,000 by 1993 and there's no incentive to buy the PC at all to get the them to to reduce those emissions which aren't even harmful emissions because the PCA is making running that whole division by its fees in the program with those of you who live and work up here given given everything we've talked about today. Do you have confidence that the range at least in some form Will Survive that they're still going to be arranged and that the the towns in the people who are here are going to be able to stay here. Where should we start with that one? Coming out of Northwest Indiana in the steel industry and I've been extremely impressed with the caliber of people that I've met here people in various forms of leadership Weatherby. The steel workers are local elected officials the state legislators Congressman. / * there are there are a lot of very well-meaning and bright people here and I would agree 100% that this area has gotten a bad rap when you talk about Labor Relations and those kinds of things I would just tell you that I am encouraged and plan on making my home here sign raising my children here and I and this is a wonderful place to live and I'm encouraged that that we do have a future very bright future and I would say it behooves all of us in a leadership position to put those past differences and put the past rhetoric and the myths behind us and let's talk about those things that we can do together to once again. Make this a vibrant Economy and keep those things that certainly the people here cherish. We are a very resourceful a group of people and we will persevere regardless of what the other folks think might happen to us. I know and the third generation Ranger I can say there's going to be a lot more Generations yet. They're going to replace the special Main Street radio broadcast. I'd like to thank our guests Doug Schroeder of the iron mining Association of routes from the United steelworkers. I Triple R B commissioner Jim Gustafson former state representative for its canal and representative. Tom. Rukavina are producers today have been Mike Edgerly here in nashwauk and Sarah Meyer in St. Paul are technical directors are Rick Epson ski and Brian Thomasson in nashwauk and Randy Johnson in St. Paul and we have special. Thanks today for Nashua city clerk Edward ball Eyemart on casty Minnesota public radio's Main Street radio is supported by a major Grant from the blandin foundation strengthening. So does rural communities through grant-making leadership training and conferencing?