Taconite Mining on the Downturn?

By KBJR News 1

September 14, 2012 Updated Sep 14, 2012 at 8:48 AM CDT

Minnesota's iron mining industry employs nearly 4,200 people on the Iron Range with an average wage and benefit package of about a hundred–thousand dollars a year.

That a huge economic impact, not only on the Range, but on the entire Northland.

So when the industry goes into a slump the entire region feels the pain.

Iron Mining makes up 34–percent of the gross regional product of Northeastern Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin.

What's got industry experts concerned is what's happening in China. Iron Ore prices there are at an all–time low with a 24–percent price drop in August alone according to the Wall Street Journal and other trade articles.

Because it's an international industry, what happens in places like China can have a huge impact here in the States. But Craig Pagel of the Minnesota Iron Mining Association says there's no panic here.
We're not selling to China. " Yes there is an effect in some way, however we're much more buffered from that. "

The buffering comes from the fact that most of the Iron Range mines are either owned by, or have long–term contracts with, U–S steel companies. That helps to keep the prices stable.

But even if the mining industry were to slow down regional economic experts say the Northland is in a much better position to deal with it than it was just five years ago, thanks to a much more diversified economy.

The Duluth economy is soaring right now with all kinds of investments in engineering and high tech and education, and health care, so we've got a much better cushion than we did five years ago, ten years ago.