Cleveland-Cliffs iron nugget plant goes to MichiganAn iron nugget plant that had been targeted for construction at Northshore Mining Co. in Silver Bay instead appears headed for Michigan.
By: Lee Bloomquist, Duluth News Tribune, Lake County News Chronicle
An iron nugget plant that had been targeted for construction at Northshore Mining Co. in Silver Bay instead appears headed for Michigan.
Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. said Thursday it would partner with Kobe Steel Ltd. to begin in 2010 producing 500,000 tons of iron nuggets per year at a commercial-scale nugget plant at the Empire Mine in Palmer, Mich.
Building the plant at Cliffs’ Empire Mine, where iron ore reserves will be exhausted by 2010, would extend company operations at the mine, Joseph Carrabba, Cleveland-Cliffs chairman and president, said in a news release.
The announcement didn’t surprise Iron Range lawmakers.
By building the plant in Michigan, lawmakers say Cliffs would avoid paying closing costs at the Empire Mine.
“They have a mine there that has closing costs,” said Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake. “And building it at Northshore [near Lake Superior] is difficult. It’s disappointing and sad that the people of Northeastern Minnesota won’t have this opportunity for jobs that could last a lifetime. But it’s difficult to permit anything up here. Look at how many people are fighting us whenever we try to do anything in mining.”
Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said building the plant in Michigan would provide Cleveland-Cliffs with a “soft landing.”
“‘They knew how difficult it would be in Silver Bay,” Bakk said. “But I’m still very disappointed.”
The plant would use Kobe’s patented ITmk3 ironmaking technology. It would produce nuggets containing more than 96 percent iron.
The nuggets would be used as a raw material to feed North American mini-mills, which melt pig iron and recycled products in electric arc furnaces to produce steel.
Domestic mini-mills in 2006 produced about 55 million tons of steel, according to a Cleveland-Cliffs news release.
Cleveland-Cliffs, Kobe, Steel Dynamics of Fort Wayne, Ind., and Ferrometrics, a Two Harbors-based company, had planned to build a nugget plant near the former LTV Steel Mining Co. taconite plant at Hoyt Lakes.
However, that deal fell apart when partners couldn’t agree on business terms.
Steel Dynamics has since announced plans to build its own nugget plant at the Hoyt Lakes site.
The company is trying to finalize agreements that would lead to construction.
Officials of Steel Dynamics say they hope to have agreements in place during the third quarter of this year.
Dill said construction of a Cleveland-Cliffs facility in Michigan wouldn’t preclude the construction of other nugget plants in Northeastern Minnesota.