Cliffs undeterred by state's refusal to address its Nashwauk plan

Cleveland-Cliffs President, Chief Executive and Board Chair Lourenco Goncalves.

Lourenco Goncalves isn’t a business executive who minces words. The chairman, president and chief executive of Cleveland-Cliffs was blunt at a 75-minute news conference Friday when he questioned why Minnesota officials won’t issue a permit to mine deposits the company controls near Nashwauk.

“The land is mine and I want my freaking permit,” he said while visiting United Taconite in Forbes. 

Because Department of Natural Resources executives won’t issue one, or even explain their position, they are being sued by Cliffs. Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration is negotiating with other firms – which have no track record on the Iron Range, to take over the former Essar Steel Minnesota development. Dayton announced their interest on Tuesday but was forced to eat crow a day later when he learned Essar – which failed to pay dozens of contractors – was among them.

“I get great support from mayors, from unions and from Rick Nolan,” Goncalves said, noting that  Dayton and State Sens. Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni have ignored Cliffs, even though the corporation has money immediately available to fund a mining/processing project.

“Where is Sen. Tom Bakk hiding these days? What is Sen. Tomassoni doing these days?” Goncalves asked rhetorically. “Vote Bakk out. Vote Tomassoni Out.”

BusinessNorth was unable to reach the state senators for comment.

Although Goncalves declined to speculate why state officials are ignoring Cliffs’ interest, he noted that Dayton told him that an earlier Cliffs proposal didn’t offer enough. Although it included a hot briquetted iron (HBI) plant, a taconite pellet plant wasn’t in the plan. Other companies offered both but delivered neither. Cliffs went on to begin construction of the HBI facility in Toledo, Ohio.

“I only made the deal in Toledo after I was denied Nashwauk,” he said.

Goncalves said he can’t wait forever for Minnesota officials to support his proposal. Public corporations are required to spend excess profits on infrastructure or return it to shareholders as a dividend. But he indicated he will wait until after the gubernatorial election.

“He’s like Hurricane Florence – it’s bad for awhile and then it goes away,” Goncalves said about Dayton.