As the Highway 53 relocation project moves forward towards its fall 2017 completion date, a new road story is developing in the central part of the Iron Range;  Officials with Hibbing Taconite have put Saint Louis County on alert that it plans on mining the property near Chisholm where County Highway 5 currently resides.  The announcement means that a second highway on the Iron Range will need to move in order to make way for mine expansions.

At the same time, the future of mining in the region is on shaky ground.  Specifically, United Taconite - the company that is making the State of Minnesota move Highway 53 - is currently idled.  There are those that say that the mine might potentially not reopen.  If that ends up being the case, the $240-million relocation of Highway 53 would be for naught.

The County Highway 5 move isn't sitting well with city officials in Chisholm.  Residents are concerned  that if the highway moves from its present route that it could gravely impact the economics of the city.  Analysts doubt that outcome but its easy to see why Chisholm is concerned.  Many people still remember when Highway 169 moved to its present location.  Prior to the move roughly 35 years ago, 169 snaked its way through Chisholm, Buhl, and the other small towns along the way to Virginia;  after the move, the road completely bypassed the cities - taking traffic and dollars outside of their respective business districts.

No one is suggesting that mining on the Iron Range is dead.  The world will still need the resources that our region supplies - even if it ends up being in a lesser amount that in decades (or generations) past.  But it is entirely possible that our state and local governments will spend millions of dollars to accommodate the needs of mining and never see a return on that investment.


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