Moving the Highway for Mining: Cliffs' Perspective

Updated: 08/07/2014 11:39 PM
Created: 08/07/2014 4:44 PM

It looks pretty simple. The huge equipment moves the raw rock, which is then processed into iron ore pellets.

But it's actually more complicated than that, because not all ore is created equal. And the ore under Highway 53 just south of Virginia, is the best left in the pit.

"We can blend that with other ores, to make the right product for our customer. By mining that deposit, we can add about 15 years to the mine life," explained Nick Beukema, Mine Manager.

A long time ago, the mine pit was very far away from the road, the ore was considered of average quality. But things have changed since that 1960 easement agreement was signed, which says MnDOT has to move the road so United Taconite can mine under it, by May 2017.

People wonder how valuable the ore is under the roadway, since it may seem narrow. "We can mine up to 800 feet deep," Beukema explained.

And why not put the new road through the pit? There are a variety of safety and construction challenges. "It would take us 15 years to move all of the ore out of here, and then the pit would be 800 feet deep, which would make building a road here more difficult than it would be now," Beukema said.

MnDOT is working continuously on this project. But they have to wait for critical test foundations to be put in the Rouchleau Pit, to fully vet the options for the re-route. No companies put in bids for the work, which was disappointing, according to engineer Pat Huston. But they have another plan in place. "We're working with a contractor who could possibly be putting those test footings in, in September."

Front Page

  • Thousands Flock for Two Harbors Beargrease Marathon Start

    About 45 teams of mushers and dogs took off on the John Beargrease Marathon trail in Two Harbors Sunday afternoon to cheers from thousands of spectators, despite a departure from the traditional race start at Duluth East High School...

  • Wisconsin Lawmaker Hopes to End 'Vaping' Indoors

    Lawmakers are set to reignite conversations this week about whether vaping - using electronic cigarettes and other vapor smoking devices - should be included in Wisconsin's smoking ban. The ban took effect in 2010. It outlaws smoking in all public indoor locations, including restaurants and bars.

  • Campground Fees Rise this Year at Michigan State Parks

    Fees at state-operated campgrounds in Michigan are going up this year to cover higher costs and pay for maintenance projects. Parks and recreation chief Ron Olson of the Department of Natural Resources says the amount of the increase at a particular site depends on its popularity.

  • Minnesota Guard Not Going to Liberia After All

    Members of the Minnesota National Guard have learned they won't be going to Liberia to help the U.S. military's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Soldiers from the Rosemount-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division were supposed to go to Liberia this year in support of Operation United Assistance.

  • One Man Dead After Car Accident in Aitkin County

    A 47-year-old man died after his vehicle was broadsided in east-central Minnesota on Saturday night. The incident happened at the intersection of Highway 18 and Highway 65 in Aitkin County at 9:35 p.m.