Minnesota Now Fifth-Largest Mining State, It Could Have Been Number Two

According to the United States Geological Survey, Minnesota mined $4.05 billion in non-fuel minerals in 2018, making it the fifth-largest state for mining, in terms of the value of minerals sold (excluding coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium). This is after Minnesota was in sixth place last year.

Few people in the Twin Cities metro realize just how important mining is to Minnesota’s economy, and to the nation’s security. In 2018, mines in Minnesota and Michigan shipped 98% of the usable iron ore products in the United States with an estimated value of $4.1 billion. Minnesota has traditionally accounted for approximately 75 percent of the iron ore mined in the United States, and iron ore from Minnesota accounts for about 2 percent of global iron ore supplies.

As impressive as Minnesota’s mining numbers currently are, they should be much bigger. In fact, if Minnesota were to have developed it’s copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, cobalt, and titanium deposits, it would have added an additional $3.5 billion in non-fuel mineral sales in 2018. Had this been the case, Minnesota would have been the second largest mining state in the country, with Nevada only narrowly beating out the Land of 10,000 Lakes as top dog in terms of the value of mined minerals.

Other Minnesota tidbits from the Minerals Commodity Summary from 2019 are listed below:

Cobalt: Identified cobalt resources of the United States are estimated to be about 1 million tons. Most of these resources are in Minnesota, but other important occurrences are in Alaska, California, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. We can either mine cobalt in Minnesota, or allow it to be mined by 40,000 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Nickel: In 2018, the underground Eagle Mine in Michigan produced approximately 19,000 tons of nickel in concentrate, which was exported to smelters in Canada and overseas. The mine continued development of the Eagle East extension, with first production expected in 2020. In November, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that it had issued permits for a mining project in the northeastern part of the State.

Platinum-Group Metals: One company in Montana produced about 18,100 kilograms of platinum-group metals (PGMs) with an estimated value of about $570 million. Small quantities of primary PGMs also were recovered as byproducts of copper-nickel mining in Minnesota; however, this material was sold to foreign companies for refining. I’m not sure if USGS meant Michigan here, but Minnesota has some of the largest undeveloped PGM deposits in the world.

Sand and Gravel (Industrial): Minnesota was the 5th-largest producer of industrial sand in 2018. Demand for industrial sand has increased as American oil and gas production has surged. The United States is now the largest producer of both oil and natural gas in the world thanks to the fracking revolution, and Minnesota sand helps meet the demand these operations have for sand.