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Mining Review: 2012

Posted at: 12/27/2012 11:05 AM
Updated at: 12/27/2012 10:40 PM
By: Renee Passal

2012 was a fairly steady year for the taconite industry. According to the minerals tax office, the estimated production of pellets for the year is 38.6 million tons. That's down slightly from 2011's number of 38.9 million tons.

The big news of the year was the settlement of labor contracts for five of the six taconite plants. None of the companies or unions settled in time for the September 1st deadline. However, there were no work stoppages or strikes. And the new labor deals are three years in length, instead of four.

Mining Resources began producing concentrate at their facility between Chisholm and Hibbing. It's a joint venture between Magnetation and Steel Dynamics. The concentrate produced there is then trucked over to Mesabi Nugget, which is also owned by SDI.

Speaking of Magnetation, the company picked Indiana for the site of their new iron ore pellet plant. However, they will need two more concentrate plants to help feed the Indiana facility, and those will be in Minnesota.

Essar Steel Minnesota decided to temporarily slowdown construction at their plant site in Nashwauk. Recently, they released information about a potential DRI plant with a partner, and that the plant could be in Minnesota. Also, Itasca County needs to find a new shortline railroad operator for the project, because the one originally chosen has backed out.

PolyMet has proved they can successfully lower sulfate levels in water at a pilot plant in Virginia. The technology can meet the strict state standard in place for sulfates.

Mining was a hot topic between Congressional candidates. Rick Nolan had won endorsement of the steelworkers union. Chip Cravaack had the support of individual steelworkers. In the end, Nolan won.

Work continues on the relocation of Highway 53 and County Road 102 for mining. United Taconite and Minntac want to mine under the current roadways.

And Joy Global moved into their new, state of the art building in Virginia this fall.

We'll have a look ahead at 2013, next week.