United Taconite opens new iron pellet plant on Iron Range – by Dee DePass (Minneapolis Star Tribune – May 17, 2017)


The $75 million investment in Forbes, Minn., signals another economic bump for Iron Range.

In another positive sign for Minnesota’s Iron Range, the parent company of United Taconite has started production at its new $75 million Mustang “superflux” pellet plant in Forbes, Minn.

Ohio-based Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. said the project “was flawlessly executed,” on budget and on schedule after nine months of construction. And firing up the plant equipment had no hiccups on its first day.

“Building a new facility on budget, without any lost-time accidents, and in only nine months through the Minnesota winter is no small undertaking,” said Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves.

The new plant was built adjacent to United Taconite’s existing 52-year-old iron-ore pelletizing plant and came as welcome news for a region battered by a two-year downturn in the iron ore mining industry.

Because of a global iron pricing depression, the older United Taconite plant in Forbes, an unincorporated community about 10 miles southwest of Eveleth, Minn., sat idled from about August 2015 to August 2016, affecting about 420 workers. But last summer, pricing relief and new U.S. trade tariffs that penalized steel dumpers such as China, Korea, England and Brazil helped rally the industry in the United States.

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