A tireless worker for mining and minerals

Julie Marunucci poses in front of one of the mine display trucks at the Hull Rust Mine overlook.

Julie Marinucci has worked at pretty much every iron ore mine in northeastern Minnesota.

Whether as a college summer student, for private companies, or as a mining company employee, Marinucci has worked at ArcelorMittal Minorca Mine, Minntac Mine, Hibbing Taconite, United Taconite, and Northshore Mining. She also worked for global equipment supplier Svedala, mining and construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, and Short Elliott Hendrickson, an engineering, architectural, environmental, and planning firm.

In a shift of gears, Marinucci is today supporting mining in a new role.

A little more than a year ago, Marinucci was hired as St. Louis County mineral development specialist.

It's a new St. Louis County position designed to help the county maximize revenue from county-managed tax-forfeit property that's being mined. It's also a job aimed at helping the county foster closer relationships with mining companies, governmental entities, and educating citizens.

“The position itself has really been fun to develop because it's a brand new position,” said Marinucci, a 1998 Chisholm High School graduate. “You are able to serve in a capacity of a land manager, have a seat at the table, and have a position of influence to help remove roadblocks and move things along that would allow for long-term responsible mineral development. The position has grown into a diverse position and that's welcomed.”

St. Louis County since 1905 has been directly involved in iron ore mining within the county through its Inspector of Mines office.

However, Marinucci's hiring is an opportunity for the county to dig deeper. It allows the county to better capitalize on existing and future iron mining, along with potential copper-nickel mining activity, to grow county revenue and develop closer partnerships.

The position is part of a larger recognition of the importance of mining by the county.

“The department changed its name from lands to land and minerals about nine years ago,” said Mark Weber, St. Louis County Land & Minerals Department director. “I think that was based on input from commissioners in recognizing the value of the minerals estate in St. Louis County and managing it. We do a good job managing our timber resources, but needed to manage our minerals resources.”

That's where Marinucci comes in.

Part of Marinucci's job is to determine the potential for county-managed tax-forfeit lands that are being leased for mining now or in the future. Royalties on those lands are to be paid to the county by mining interests which mine the property.

Marinucci has already identified some tax-forfeit lands from which the county should be deriving revenue, said Keith Nelson, St. Louis County Sixth District commissioner.

“There has been resources that St. Louis County taxpayers have not been getting the benefit of getting paid for,” said Nelson. “With Julie on board, that's no longer going to be.”

Marinucci also works on minerals land management, mineral leasing, mineral reserve preservation, and as a connection between the county, mining companies and communities.

Another portion of Marinucci's work is to maximize the complicated taconite tax distribution formula for the benefit of the county and taxpayers. Minerals education is yet another emphasis for Marinucci. Marinucci has long been involved in educating the region's youth about mining.

“The other side (of her job) is untangling that web,” Weber said of the taconite tax formula. “She is determining if the proceeds can come back to the county and the citizens. She's also working with the schools in trying to get the message out about how important mining is to the region.”

Marinucci said the late county commissioner and former state representative Tom Rukavina, helped her learn the intricacies of taconite production taxes and how the taxes are distributed.

Rukavina, said Marinucci, encouraged her to apply for the position.

“I have to credit Tom Rukavina for beating me over the head to give the position a good look,” said Marinucci. “So, I hope I'm making him proud.”

Rukavina was a strong proponent of creating the minerals specialist position, said Nelson.

“We needed to have a person dedicated to maximizing the mining resources we have and make sure the taxpayers in St. Louis County are getting the royalties and the mineral rights they deserve,” said Nelson. “Tommy deserves credit because he was a strong advocate.”

Marinucci holds a mining engineering degree from Michigan Tech.

Her engineering degree, along with work experiences in mining as a college student, helped kick start her career.

“It's a really nice piece of paper,” Marinucci said of her degree. “It's a good piece of paper that opens a lot of doors, that's what I tell students I talk to. But throughout my entire career, I've probably done engineering for two years. What it has provided me is the opportunity to solve problems.”

Over her career, Marinucci has worked as a surveyor, on research projects, a pit foreman, in global mining equipment applications, short-range mine planning, section manager of mine engineering, corporate strategy, business improvement, business development, project management, and consulting.

Every position helped her learn more about the different aspects of mining, said Marinucci.

But it's the personal relationships she's enjoyed within the industry over those years that helped her the most, she said.

“The best part about mining is that it's a global industry, but everyone knows each other,” said Marinucci. “On the Iron Range, it's the same people. We may have changed faces or shuffled around a bit, but we all have the same goal. If anything, it's a collaborative relationship.”

Marinucci is also well-known for being involved on the Iron Range – in almost everything.

If there's a mining-related committee working to serve the industry – or a challenge to address within her community – Marinucci is there.

Her list of volunteer work is as long as an iron ore train.

Marinucci is a board member and past chair of the Range Engineering Council, Natural Resources Research Institute Community Impact Board chair, Natural Resources Research Institute Strategy Board chair, a past Engineer's Club member, past chair of the Minnesota Section of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, current member of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota Public Information Committee and its Education Committee, and presenter at the Minnesota Minerals Education Workshop.

At home, she is co-founder of the Chisholm Downtown Revitalization Committee, member of the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce Business Retention & Expansion Committee, Laurentian Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and is a former French Township emergency medical responder.

“She's very involved in her community and connected professionally and politically,” said Weber. “She's involved in everything on the Range.”

Marinucci's education, mining experience, community involvement and network of relationships, are a huge asset to the county, said Nelson.

“In a short period of time, she has gained the respect of the DNR and all the area mining companies with her depth of knowledge and her work ethic,” said Nelson. “She is a tireless worker. If I had to describe her in one word, I would say she is fearless when it comes to taking care of the taxpayers interest.”

For Marinucci, mining remains about relationships, the variety of opportunities it provides to live and work where she grew up, and about giving back to the region.

“I find that the involvement in those types of organizations are a huge influencer in me being able to do my work well,” said Marinucci. “Being involved in those organizations, you're able to forge relationships with people and the way you get work is done is by having those relationships. Engineering and the mining industry have provided a very good career to me and I want to be sure I am reaching back to youth and college students to help them understand there are very good careers in mining in northeastern Minnesota.”

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