Essar says construction will continue, taconite plant to open on time

An Essar Steel official has contacted me to clarify that work at the company’s new taconite plant near Nashwauk has not stopped. About 100 contractors remain on site in some capacity (I hear electricians and excavators), along with about 100 employees working on other aspects of the project.

So Essar is not “shutting down” its project, it is “slowing down.” The reasons are indeed related to the India-based global company’s decision to redirect its capital funds around the world, but the company continues to maintain that it will be in production late next year.

My earlier assumption was based on the outflow of contractors from the area, some who had confided that they didn’t know when they would be called back. That might be true, but Essar is saying they will be called back on some kind of schedule.

This Aug. 22 press release shows why news of a slow down was surprising:

Essar Steel Minnesota is pleased to announce that several significant project milestones have been achieved in recent weeks including:

  • secured project financing of $1.1 billion for the initial capacity of 4.1 million tons per year of pellets
  • invested over $600 million into the project
  • Itasca County and City of Nashwauk achieved 100% completion of rail, gas, water, sewer and road improvements
  • Minnesota Power and City of Nashwauk achieved 75% completion of power substationsinitiated the ESML branch of “Essar Foundation” to administer donations and provide other types of assistance to local non-profit organization

According to President and CEO, Mr. Madhu Vuppuluri…”we are very excited to have financing for the initial stage of production fully in hand with financing for the incremental increase in pelletizing capacity in the advanced stage. We are equally excited to be making an enormous contribution to the local economy with the project construction and to the communities surrounding the project by establishing the ESML branch of the Essar Foundation. I would like to thank all our partners in the project that include the IRR, DEED, Itasca County, NPUC, Minnesota Power, and Northern Natural Gas and most importantly the City of Nashwauk for hosting the project. With everyone’s continued focus and support, I am confident we can achieve our goals with great success!”

  • reached 500,000 construction hours with excellent safety and environmental performance
  • achieved 50% completion mark for the project engineering, procurement and construction
  • reached 100 permanent and part-time employees
  • completed the environmental permitting process to increase capacity to 7.0 million tons per year of pellets
  • began receiving major pieces of equipment
  • began erecting structural steel at the mining, crushing/concentrating and pelletizing areas

According to Chief of Projects, Steve Rutherford…“I am extremely proud of our Essar employees and Contractors for their continued efforts to “raise the bar” in safety, engineering, procurement, and construction practices. Together, we will make history by completing this project safely, on budget and on schedule.”

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