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Mesabi Metallics Owner Tells Iron Range, 'We Are Not the Enemy'

Written by Sandy Williams

Tom Clarke is trying to make friends on the Iron Range. Clarke, owner of iron ore facilities Magnetation and Mesabi Metallics, sent letters to all the United Steelworker locals in the Iron Range pledging to unionize Mesabi Metallics and not to displace any other iron ore operations with his own.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that the letters went to presidents of all the local unions including the operations owned by Cleveland Cliffs.

“I pledge to work side-by-side with the USW, Iron Range politicians and Cliffs in supporting all mining activities in Minnesota and Michigan,” Clarke wrote in a letter following a Feb. 8 meeting with union officials.

A feud between Clarke and Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves has been ongoing since Clarke began his iron ore acquisitions in the Nashwauk region. Goncalves wants Nashwauk ore to provide future feedstock for its Hibbing Taconite plant. Clarke says there is room for both companies in the area.

A $3.7 billion taconite and iron project at Mesabi Metallics will use half of its taconite pellets to make pig iron at the facility and ship the other half to Mexico and Asia. Clarke said he will not be a direct competitor to Cleveland Cliffs.

“As promised in our meeting, we are prepared to work closely with all parties to ensure Hibbing Taconite has the ore resources necessary to operate well into the future,” Clarke wrote the union leaders Monday. “It’s unacceptable for Cliffs and my companies to be feuding with each other when our common enemy is the unfair intrusion of foreign steel imports.”

Clarke said he has reached out with a conciliatory phone message to Goncalves, but has not yet heard from him.

“I’m trying to do what’s best for the Iron Range, for sustainable mining in Minnesota. We want to not only start up our operations and employ people but we want Hibbing Taconite to keep operating, and all the Minnesota plants to keep operating,” Clarke said. “We aren’t the enemy here. The enemy is China and Russia and Brazil and Ukraine and all the countries flooding our nation with pig iron that we could be making on the Iron Range.”

As an apparent show of good faith, Clarke said he bought 110,000 shares of Cleveland Cliffs saying that he “obviously wants them to succeed.”

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