City supports reopening of Empire Mine

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission has formally joined numerous community members and area officials by supporting the possibility of reopening Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.’s Empire Mine.

Following suit of the Marquette County Board of Commissioners — which unanimously supported the idea in February — the city commission passed a resolution Monday, with all seven members in favor.

In August 2016, over 300 people lost their jobs after the Empire Mine ceased its operations.

The idling of the mine has an annual negative economic impact on the region of roughly $180 million, and restarting operations would turn that around through the increase in commerce and economic prosperity in the region, the resolution states.

At the company’s annual breakfast held at the Holiday Inn in Marquette last month, Cliffs’ President, Chairman and CEO Lourenco Goncalves said his company is currently mulling over an expansion of its operations and considering possible locations in Michigan or Minnesota.

“The Empire is not operating, but the Empire is not dead — we can bring operations back from idle, anytime we choose to do so,” Goncalves was quoted saying in a previous Journal article.

According to Goncalves, the mining operation in Minnesota would be less expensive than the Upper Peninsula option because the ore is closer to the surface. However, the permitting process in Minnesota could take up to five years. Goncalves said the community’s feedback could potentially play a role in which state is chosen and expects the decision to be made by the end of the year.

Several people at Monday’s meeting, including Margaret Brumm of Marquette, endorsed the reopening of the mine, mostly due to its economic benefits.

“An Empire job is very tough, very dirty and very dangerous,” Brumm said. “It enables you to support yourself and a family, or in my case, it enabled me to earn enough money to pay for college.”

Brumm even brought a six-pack of local microbrewery beer to the meeting and asked that the commission made sure Cliffs officials received the gift. Brumm said that since pasties from Lawry’s were offered previously, she wanted to also provide something local that complemented pasties and the area.

“You can never go wrong with a pasty and a six-pack,” she said.

Mayor Dave Campana thanked the public for their comments and Commissioner Paul Schloegel encouraged the public, or anyone who wishes to reassure Cliffs that its operations are welcome in the area, to seek out an online petition, which can be found at www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/164/473/767/.

In other business, the city commission was joined throughout its meeting by five members of the Marquette Senior High School Student Council. At the end of the meeting, the students thanked the commission for the opportunity.

“It’s exciting to see young leaders,” Schloegel told them.