Mining Year in Review

Updated: 01/02/2014 10:45 PM
Created: 01/02/2014 2:37 PM

The mining companies had a good year, and are gearing up for a good 2014 as well.

Northshore Mining idled two production lines in 2013, which meant layoffs for dozens of people. But on a better note, in March, workers showed us how they've been able to make a new type of iron ore pellet. The pellets look the same, but have a higher iron content, and can be fed into a DRI plant. DRI, direct reduced iron, is considered the wave of the future. Some of the laid off workers were called back for this project.

U.S. Steel's CEO spoke in Minneapolis at the end of January. John Surma announced they are part of a new iron ore alliance with the Steelworkers, to help spread awareness of the importance of mining. We met the new general manager for the company's Minnesota ore operations, Larry Sutherland. He says it's great to be back on the Range, after managing other U.S. Steel facilities during his career.

PolyMet had a big year. Their long-awaited Supplemental Draft EIS was published and is now out for public review. It's 2200 pages long. The company has also applied for their wetland permit through the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

The Mining Truth coalition sent a petition to Governor Mark Dayton, asking him to ensure the environment will be protected with any copper-nickel mining project like PolyMet.

As for the Highway 53 relocation project, a new option was discovered. It's still through the Rouchleau pit. But engineers discovered it could possibly be de-watered, meaning a long bridge might not be needed. MnDOT also decided to the relief of many, that the western route would no longer be on the table. In June, a large economic study started to determined some of the impacts of moving the road. And MnDOT began hosting "Coffee and Conversation" meetings to keep folks updated.

Progress at Essar Steel's site remained slow all year, although some work began again in October. The timetable of when they may be producing iron ore pellets is likely the first part of 2015.

Magnetation is moving forward with their new pellet plant in Reynolds, Indiana. And the state approved a mining lease for their soon to be built plant near the Canisteo Pit.

As for 2014, the outlook is strong for capacity at the traditional mines.

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