Minnesota lands on new leases for Hibbing Taconite

Hibbing Taconite was granted new leases by state of Minnesota on March 2, extending its mine life by about nine months. (Courtesy of Cleveland-Cliffs)

Jerry Burnes/Iron Range Today

New mineral leases were approved Thursday for Hibbing Taconite — not those leases — to expand the mine’s ore body out several months. 

Minnesota’s Executive Council, which consists of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor, unanimously issued the leases without discussion. 

“On behalf of our more than 2,000 employees in the State of Minnesota, we would like to thank the MN Executive Council for the approval of the mineral leases that will allow Hibbing Taconite to extend operations another 9 months through 2026,” said Lourenco Goncalves, chairman, president and CEO of Cleveland-Cliffs, through a statement Thursday. 

The amended leases don’t solve the long-term problems Hibbing Taconite faces as it inches toward the end of its ore reserves in 2026, but the company said it’s looking beyond the Band-Aid solution for the mine.

Cliffs has applied for the state mineral leases at the former Butler Taconite site in Nashwauk after the Minnesota Supreme Court in January declined to take up a legal argument from Mesabi Metallics, which was stripped of the leases by the Department of Natural Resources last year.

“We remain confident that, once we obtain the state leases to add to Nashwauk land already controlled by Cleveland-Cliffs, we will then be able to extend the life of Hibbing Taconite for decades,” Goncalves added.

Cliffs, U.S. Steel and Scranton Holding Company, an entity formed in 2020,  have so far expressed interest in all or some of the leases. The DNR hasn’t set a timeline on when the leases will be resolved and final approval would land back in the decision making of the Executive Council. 

Mesabi Metallics said in January it would explore avenues to keep the largely defunct project in Nashwauk moving forward, and said it was in advanced discussions to form a joint partnership that would “provide hundreds of million dollars of additional equity funds and will allay any concerns that the project will not proceed as intended.”

As of Thursday, the company has yet to join the fray to regain the leases or provide more details on its potential partnership.

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