Clarke Gets Approval of Plan for Former Essar Project

June 13, 2017 10:07 PM

It's been a roller coaster ride for folks waiting for progress on the former Essar site.

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"You know, the road has been rough," said Burl Ives, vice-chair of the Itasca County Board. "There's been a lot of scariness for people."

He's referring to the millions in unpaid bills for contractors in Minnesota.

But those contractors are expecting to get some money back, thanks to a plan from Tom Clarke. The Virginia businessman just had his reorganization plan approved by the bankruptcy court judge on Tuesday.

"It's the right group, with the right approach, to make this happen," said Nashwauk Mayor Ben DeNucci. DeNucci met recently with Clarke, when he was in town.

"He said he won't proceed until all of the money is available. And he wants one construction schedule. And he has money set aside to pay back the contractors," DeNucci added.

Clarke also settled the mineral lease issue with the state of Minnesota. According to the new term sheet, there are conditions that Clarke needs to meet, otherwise, the state can rescind the leases. One timeline that Clarke promises is to restart construction on the pellet plant by September 30, 2017.

And one of the conditions is to build a DRI plant, to produce HBI, hot briquetted iron.

This has people DeNucci excited, because it revives the original plan at the Nashwauk site.

Representative Sandy Layman, who worked on the project as a former IRRRB Commissioner, said that she believes this is the most reasonable path forward. She told us over the phone, "We can't be in the same position before with broken promises, so the state supports the bid for the leases that has those conditions."

Clarke and his Chippewa Capital Partners will still need to emerge from bankruptcy.

Mesabi Metallics had been the name of the business for several months now, as it moved through bankruptcy proceedings.


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