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The Mining Industry's Highs and Lows in 2017

December 28, 2017 10:50 PM

It might be hard to believe, but another year is wrapping up. Here's a look at some of the highs and lows from the mining industry.

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One of the first things that happened was the restart of Keetac, which began making pellets again in February. This was significant as they had been idled for nearly 2 years. And in 2017, both Keetac and Minntac celebrated 50 years of mining, according to parent company U.S. Steel.

Another mine, United Taconite, saw the successful launch of Project Mustang. They can now make a custom pellet for ArcelorMittal, thanks to the $75 million dollar upgrade. Also in UTAC news, the new Highway 53 opened up for travel. MnDOT had to move the old road, so the mine can move through that area.

At a different Cleveland-Cliffs facility, Northshore Mining, news came of a $75 million dollar investment there, to help them produce more DR grade pellets. Those pellets will supply the DRI facility planned for Toledo, Ohio.

Over at Hibbing Taconite, the Mineview that overlooked the majestic pit closed on Labor Day. But a new one is planned. And the new County Highway 5 opened up, so Hibtac can mine over the old one.

Minorca Mine in Virginia celebrated 40 years of operation, and their 100 millionth ton of pellet production.

The fight over the former Essar project got even uglier. Virginia businessman Tom Clarke just emerged from bankruptcy, and plans on mining and building a DRI facility on site in Nashwauk. He also paid vendors $40 million dollars in October. But then, in December, Cleveland-Cliffs announced they now have control over a significant portion of the minerals there, by acquiring private mineral leases.

Out in Washington, President Trump ordered an expedited Section 232 investigation, which has not been completed yet. It will determine if steel imports are a threat to national security. But there are more duties coming on steel imports.

And just a week ago, the Trump Administration said that Twin Metals should get their mineral leases renewed. This is good news for the company and mining advocates. However, Jobs for Minnesotans said that it does not affect the proposed 20 year ban on mining and exploration that the Forest Service has begun. You may remember public hearings on the issue drew hundreds across the state.

The wild rice sulfate/sulfide standard continues to be controversial. The MPCA came up with a different solution, involving sulfide levels. An administrative law judge listened to arguments about the proposal, at hearings across the state.

PolyMet had some significant milestones. Their land exchange got the go-ahead from the U.S. Forest Service, and a bill that would finalize it is moving through Congress. Also, all of their permit applications have gone in, and are under review. And Governor Mark Dayton has pledged his support for the project.

Over in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker just signed a bill into law that effectively lifts the moratorium on precious metals mining. It doesn't go into effect for six months.

And on the Great Lakes, a banner year for iron ore totals. High demand and high water levels combined lead to numbers not seen in a decade. Let's hope the demand continues, into 2018.

 


WDIO

Copyright 2017 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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