Mining industry holds up in volatile economy

Taconite ready to go
Five-thousand tons of taconite sit ready for shipping to Chicago by barge.
MPR Photo/Bob Kelleher

Although the S&P credit downgrade has pummeled the stock prices of many Minnesota companies, it doesn't seem to be affecting several high-profile mining projects in the northeastern part of the state.

"We are obviously in volatile times, and this market may have an impact directly on individual company stock prices, but I have not heard of any company and any project being changed as a result of this very short term market impact," said Frank Ongaro, executive director of Mining Minnesota. The group represents a new generation of mining companies pursuing controversial copper-nickel mining projects on the Iron Range.

Iron ore mining companies also haven't experienced any rippling effects. The industry is still buoyed by strong demand for ore and steel, said Craig Pagel, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota.

The demand for steel in China and India has sparked a renaissance in taconite mining on Minnesota's Iron Range. Several construction projects and mine expansions are in the works, including what could be the state's first steel mill near Nashwauk.

"So many things are made out of iron and steel, everything that's basically metal," Pagel said. "I think the demand for iron ire out of Northeast Minnesota will continue."

Controversial copper-nickel mines proposed for northeast Minnesota are unlikely to be affected, mining officials said.

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