Updated: May 19, 2021 06:26 PM
Created: May 19, 2021 08:08 AM
Two weeks after the DNR announced they are starting to terminate mineral leases with Mesabi Metallics, the company hosted a lunch event on site.
It was new president Larry Sutherland's third day on the job. He retired from U.S. Steel last year. "I'm very excited to join the team. There's been a lot of negativity, and it's time to move forward," he said. He has history on the site, having worked as a millright when it was the Butler Mine, and said his father helped build Butler.
Ravi Ruia, from Essar Group, was also on hand. He thanked supporters for standing by them. "I sincerely regret that the project was disrupted a few years ago." Essar broke ground on the project in 2008, but then filed for bankruptcy in 2016.
The mayor of Nashwauk, Calvin Saari, said, "I've always maintained, that whoever holds the leases, I'm with you 100%."
Back on May 5th, the DNR announced they had started the process of terminating the state leases with Mesabi. The agency said it was because the company did not have the $200 million dollars immediately available in its accounts, as required by the state in the lease agreement. There was $100 million dollars in the account, according to the state.
The other half was delayed due to the COVID crisis in India, according to Mesabi.
Sutherland said they are asking the state to stay that termination. "We've met 6 1/2 of the 7 critical points in the master lease agreements. That other $100 million is ready to go, within 48 hours."
He said the money in there now is plenty to pay for the construction for months. Contractors on site said they are getting paid up front. Luke Spalj, CEO of Rice Lake Construction Group, said, "Here I stand, and I think this is the only path and clear path forward to get this project built."
Mesabi said they expect to have construction done in 2023.
U.S. Steel has expressed interest in the mineral leases. Cleveland-Cliffs wants them as well.
The termination date for the leases is May 25th, according to the DNR.
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