This morning, Kelsey Johnson, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota, discussed the importance of the Sault St. Marie Soo Locks for America’s iron mining and steelmaking industries. Johnson spoke alongside Congressman Pete Stauber, Congressman Jack Bergman, Deb DeLuca, executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority and Julie Pierce, vice president of strategy and planning at Minnesota Power, in a press conference at the Duluth – CN Ore Dock. The event was organized by Congressman Pete Stauber to discuss the national economic and security importance of the Soo Locks system.
“Minnesota’s iron mining industry fuels our local, state and nation’s economy by providing 85% of our nation’s iron ore,” explained Johnson. “The Soo Locks are a pinch point between Minnesota’s iron ore and its steelmaking destinations. If iron ore shipments cannot make it through the lock system, American manufacturing and steelmaking will be put on hold. The proposed new lock will grow opportunities for the industry’s prosperity.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, approximately 90% of the nation’s iron ore and the vast majority comes from northeastern Minnesota flows through the Soo Locks. In northeastern Minnesota, iron ore is loaded onto train cars, then ore boats to journey through the Great Lakes navigational system – a process that has existed for 135 years. The iron ore is then unloaded and made into steel, which is used in nearly every facet of modern day life from cars, ovens, ships, and bridges.
While there are currently two locks at Sault St. Marie, 89% of ship traffic is restricted to using the Poe Lock due to vessel size. This reliance on one lock jeopardizes the movement of iron ore. The new proposed, Poe-sized lock would eliminate the single point of failure in America’s iron ore and steelmaking supply chain.
Current funding for system upgrades have received support from the Trump Administration, leadership at the US Army Corps of Engineers and a bipartisan group of Congressional members, including Minnesota’s 8th District Congressman Pete Stauber and Congressman Bergman (District 1) from Watersmeet, Michigan.
“We appreciate the leadership shown for this project by Congressman Stauber, Congressman Bergman and other members of Congress from the Great Lakes region,” Johnson continued. “Going forward, it is of utmost importance that the federal government commits to efficiently funding the construction of this critical project. Our lock and our nation’s economy depend on this investment.”
Today’s iron mining and steelmaking industries support 11 million employees, $1.3 trillion in the nation’s GDP and 16% of the nation’s economy, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s study. The total investment proposed in the Trump administration’s 2020 fiscal year budget is $75.3 million – the total project cost is expected to reach $1 billion with construction and renovations ongoing until 2030.