Minnesota approves iron ore mining lease

March 7, 2013

The mining renaissance in Minnesota’s Iron Range got another boost when the state’s Executive Council unanimously approved an iron ore mining lease to Magnetation as part of a continued mining renaissance on the Iron Range, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

The lease would include a new mine near Coleraine that will feed a new pellet plant the company is building in Indiana. Magnetation produces iron concentrate from scrap rock left over from abandoned mines, said Magnetation COO Matt Lehtinen.

"We’re trying to build a business for 50 years, so to accomplish that, we need to secure in-ground mineral deposits," Lehtinen said.

Magnetation plans to develop its comprehensive project plan for the mine in the next five years with the hopes of beginning mining in five to 10 years. Lehtinen anticipates Magnetation's Minnesota workforce to grow from 220 employees now to around 500.

Other companies are also looking to open new iron ore mining operations on the range. Essar Steel plans to open a new mine and taconite pellet plant near Nashwauk early next year. Mesabi Nugget hopes to open a mine to feed its iron pellet operation in Hoyt Lakes.

Magnetation currently operates three concentrate plants on the Iron Range, with plans for two more, including one in Coleraine near the proposed new mine.

The lease area includes a gun club as well as ski, bike and snowmobile trails that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working to move. It's also adjacent to the Canisteo mine pit currently filled with over 300 feet of water. Lehtinen said the company eventually would seek to drain the pit.

The DNR anticipates the new mine could generate between $50 and $220 million for the state's Permanent School Trust Fund during the life of the mine.


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