The 2014 Iron Range Miners’ Expo will expand on its first two years to offer more exhibits and information at the Sept. 10-11 event.
Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm will again host the annual event, which was inspired by mining professionals.
“One of our goals is to show support to the mining industry and to support miners,” said Ryan Salberg, fluid power manager for PetroChoice - Lubrication Solutions, primary sponsor for the event. “It gives us the opportunity to talk to people in a different setting without the distractions of being on site at one of the plants.”
Primarily, however, it allows vendors to spotlight their products and network with potential mining industry buyers.
“They can explain their new technology and demonstrate the capabilities of their new equipment,” Salberg said.
Both indoor and outdoor exhibits will be featured, and hundreds of new products are expected to be on display.
The event will begin at 9 a.m. on Sept. 10 and continue until 4 p.m. A reception for vendors and mining employees will follow in the Community Gallery/Dining area.
On Sept. 11, the expo will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m.
This year’s event coincides with the 130th anniversary of its first shipment of ore. The first rail car departed from Soudan on July 31, 1884 – just hours after the last rail spike was driven to complete a line from Soudan to Two Harbors. Ten eight-wheeled, 20-ton ore cars carried 62,124 tons for transfer to Cleveland.
A recognition of that feat was held on July 31.
“Minnesota still has large deposits of iron, and with the industry continuing to evolve technically, environmentally, and economically, we should be a player in the global and regional economy for hundreds of years,” said Craig Pagel, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota.
Today, the Iron Range continues to benefit from its mineral resources through business events such as the Miners’ Expo. How popular is the annual gathering? Mining companies, which employ about 4,200 persons, literally bring in employees by the busload. Between 2012 and 2013, attendance increased by 69 percent, reaching approximately 2,000, Salberg said. At press time, 64 firms had signed up to have exhibit booths at the show next month, and the list is expected to keep growing.
PetroChoice, which distributes lubricants, does about 60 percent of its business with Iron Range and Michigan mines. The company is like the hundreds of other supporting businesses whose success rises and falls with demand for iron ore.
Currently, most mining companies are operating at full capacity. Having rebounded from the nationwide recession, Minnesota’s eight iron ore mining and processing companies are expected to supply steel mills with approximately 39 million tons of taconite during 2014. Those operations produce two-thirds of the iron ore used to make steel in the United States, according to the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota.
Those companies support more than jobs at their own mines but also ones provided by far more than 200 Iron Range vendors, said Craig Pagen, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota. They total at least 4,500, according to a UMD Labovitz School of Business and Economics study, and each of those positions is estimated to generate work for another two persons.
Meanwhile, the industry continues to grow, with Magnetation bringing new facilities online this year and Essar expected to begin production at its mine and processing plant late next year. If regulatory hurdles can be overcome, copper and nickel mines near Ely and Hoyt Lakes will be developed by Twin Metals Minnesota and PolyMet, further adding to the mix of people likely to visit the Miners’ Expo in coming years.