Gov. Mark Dayton lashed out at constituents Monday night during a town hall meeting on the Iron Range to discuss a controversial mining project in the region.
At the center of the Monday night’s discussion was a mining site previously owned by Essar Steel that was opened up for bidding after the company was forced to declare bankruptcy. The outside group Mesabi Metallics beat out the locally-favored Cleveland Cliffs, which already runs three taconite ore mines in the area and is trusted by locals to come through.
At one point during the town hall meeting, Dayton was accused by constituents of going back on his word to support Cleveland Cliffs.
“I’ve spent 40-plus years up here doing every goddamn thing I could to bring jobs to the Iron Range, with one exception, Twin Metals,” Dayton responded, visibly angered by the questions. “Everything else I’ve supported, everything else I’ve done, within the confines of the law, when I could.”
— Jake Schneider (@jacobkschneider) September 26, 2018
Dayton acknowledged that he initially backed Cleveland Cliffs in its effort to take over the project, but was legally prevented from taking any further action after the case was sent to bankruptcy court.
“When I said that to [Cleveland Cliff CEO Lourenco Goncalves], it was before [Essar Steel] went into bankruptcy, when there was nobody else around, when there was a lot of unemployment up here, and it didn’t look like there was anybody else around,” Dayton continued, saying he “meant it,” but that neither he nor the state has “any standing in bankruptcy.”
“So we had to follow the law, and if [Cleveland Cliffs] wants to buy this project, they can buy it,” he added.
Mesabi Metallics Interim CEO Gary Heasley was also in attendance during Monday’s event and expressed confusion over the concerns vocalized by the crowd.
“The key to moving communities forward isn’t about battling between corporations, that’s not going to do anything. The key to moving communities forward is developing resources to be cost competitive globally, and accessing markets,” he said.
Goncalves, however, told MPR News that Heasley’s company doesn’t have the finances or resources to deliver on the project.
“We have the expertise, the manpower, we have clients, and we have money, and these are all the things that the company that was anointed by Gov. Mark Dayton does not have,” he said.
Dayton, who is in his second term as Minnesota governor and not seeking reelection due to health concerns, will be leaving office in January.
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