Rep. Cambensy meets with Ishpeming leaders

ISHPEMING — State Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, met with members of the Ishpeming City Council and city staff Friday to discuss concerns and provide them an update on what is happening in Lansing.

Among the topics, the group discussed potential for the Empire Mine, which was idled indefinitely in 2016 resulting in the loss of about 300 jobs and an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity.

Cambensy introduced a House Resolution on Thursday encouraging the state to show support for Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. as it considers transferring its investment to Minnesota or reinvesting in the Empire Mine in Michigan.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, introduced the same resolution into the Senate, Cambensy said.

“It’s just to get our colleagues more aware of what we are trying to do up here,” Cambensy said. “It’s not asking for a dollar amount, it’s just asking that (Gov. Rick Snyder) take a serious look at it in terms of the economics, what they provided and what they won’t provide. So it’s a way to kind of have our colleagues step up behind us when it comes time. Look at how it affects not just (Ishpeming’s) economy but also the state economy.”

She said Cliffs’ presence in the Upper Peninsula affects smaller mining companies as well.

“I think, in talking to mining companies other than Cliffs, that they really rely on Cliffs being here and having that industry here,” Cambensy said.

Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., which has been in Marquette County since the mid-1800s, has not given any indication whether it will choose to expand in Minnesota or reopen Empire, Cambensy said.

In December, CCI struck a deal to purchase or lease more than 3,700 acres of land in Nashwauk, Minnesota, but faces several obstacles before any action could be taken to mine the ore. The area holds a confusing mix of state-owned and privately-owned mineral rights, as well as multiple owners of the surface land.

“Again, it’s a fight for the property, it’s a checkerboard right now and there’s no real signs pointing to them coming together on it,” Cambensy said of the proposed Minnesota operation. “And that is what I keep hearing from Cliffs, that there is an ongoing battle there.”

Councilman Stu Skauge said he hoped the current economic climate would mean a boon for U.S. companies that mine iron ore and produce steel.

“I am hoping because of steel tariffs that there will be more of a domestic demand for iron ore,” Skauge said.

City Manager Mark Slown said he appreciated Cambensy’s advocacy for the mining industry.

“You stood up and had a voice for a reasonable continuation of Cliffs’ mining practices,” Slown said. “Thank you so much for that.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.

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