Things happen quickly in bankruptcy proceedings for the former Essar Steel Minnesota iron ore mine near Nashwauk in Northern Minnesota.
Mesabi Metallics, the reorganized successor to Essar Steel Minnesota, still wants to finish the project with its own capital.
And we know that Cliffs Natural Resources wants the property for its first production of higher grade iron. We’ve been covering the icy back and forth between Cliffs and Mesabi Metallics these last few months.
But Monday brought another company into the mix: Chippewa Capital Partners LLC. That company includes significant backing by Tom Clarke of Roanoke, Virginia.
If that name sounds familiar, Clarke’s ERP Iron Ore bought the former Magnetation scram mining operation, which also went bankrupt last year. If Clarke is successful, he’d control all the Mesabi Iron Range mining west of Keewatin.
That’s a big leap for a former health care executive who recently started buying up bankrupt mining operations and turning them around.
We also learned that Cliffs only offered $75 million for Essar’s assets. Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves calls this an accurate reflection of the value. Essar spent almost $1 billion on the project, but financing woes caused starts and stops. Meanwhile, construction problems plagued the project. It’s likely that much of the site will need to be rebuilt or refurbished.
Meanwhile, the new bidder Chippewa Capital has put together a $250 million package. Mesabi Metallics says it has its own plan to emerge from bankruptcy with its own investors, allowing it to repay the debts.
So, Cliffs is the most established company, arguably the most likely to complete a project. But they’re only offering $75 million — which wouldn’t cover the debts Essar owes. The other companies would pay more, but are much less established.
The bankruptcy court will decide what this all means later this month. If the judge doesn’t like Mesabi Metallics plan, this could become an auction.