Magnetation expansion could impact recreation

Magnetation continues its expansion on the western Mesabi, upping production of its iron concentrate to serve what will be its first taconite processing plant in Indiana. It’s also exploring the possibility of opening new iron mining near Coleraine which would be more involved than the company’s current scram mining (essentially reprocessing mine dumps with new technology).

As Beth Bily with Business North reports, some of this new mining could potentially interfere with some popular sites on the western Mesabi:

Local officials and residents expressed concern about the fate of a number of recreational facilities if a permit to mine is issued. Facilities located within or near the mining lease area include: Mesabi Bike Trail, Keystone snowmobile trail, Itasca Gun Club, a county public water access and Nordic ski trails. A 40-acre parcel where Mt. Itasca ski hill and jumps are located was not included in the lease.

The environmental review process could include mitigation of trails or other facilities that would require relocation. The most likely facility to face a move is the local gun club, which sits on top of a tailings basin.

The actual impact, however, won’t be known until Magnetation presents its full mine plan, which hasn’t happened yet. The location of these recreational areas will be a factor in their strategy. It’s interesting to note that of all the various “projects” that have cropped up on the Iron Range in the last decade or so, only Magnetation is actually operating and growing. Most other growth has come in the established mines.

Of course, we all await the opening of Essar Steel near Nashwauk, which despite setbacks is still poised to be the first new taconite plant on the Range since the collapse of the 1980s.

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