New Iron Range plant produces ore ahead of schedule

Magnetation's Plant 4 near Grand Rapids, shown here under construction, is now operational. (PHOTO: Magnetation)

Magnetation’s Plant 4 near Grand Rapids, shown here under construction, is now operational. (PHOTO: Magnetation)

Fans of “Star Wars” might appreciate this reference: The scram mining and iron producer Magnetation announced on New Year’s Eve that its Plant 4 production facility is quite operational. Just like the Death Star in “Return of the Jedi,” the ongoing completion of construction wouldn’t deter the timely execution of the company’s strategy in 2015.

A strained metaphor perhaps (Magnetation is an iron ore producer, not a Galactic Empire ruled by an evil Sith Lord). Nevertheless, Magnetation’s long-awaited Plant 4 leapt into service this week just as 2014 drew to a close.

The company, which has grown quickly these last few years on the western Mesabi, is banking on its fourth plant to feed the furnaces at its new Reynolds, Indiana, plant. Iron pellets from that plant then go to Magnetation’s partner AK Steel to produce steel.

Magnetation’s press release follows (I’ve bolded some of the key facts):

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn.Dec. 31, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Magnetation LLC (Magnetation) announced today that it has successfully produced its first iron ore concentrate at its new plant, Plant Four, located near Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  Magnetation said the new plant has begun operations one quarter ahead of schedule and three quarters ahead of the original project schedule.

“The Plant Four design and construction effort is one of the finest project executions I have seen in my 40 years in the industry. Despite significant weather and engineering challenges, the Plant Four team along with our contractor partners has achieved first concentrate production less than ten months after the first concrete pour. The project was completed in world class speed with no lost time accidents,” said Larry Lehtinen, CEO of Magnetation.  “Plant Four will be our largest concentrate production plant and we expect that it will also be our lowest cost concentrate operation.  We anticipate it being a flagship operation providing high paying jobs on the Iron Range for many decades to come.”

Plant Four will have a production capacity of 2.0 million tonnes of concentrate per year once it’s fully operational.  The iron ore concentrate from Plant Four will supply Magnetation’s new pellet plant facility located in Reynolds, Indiana, which began operating in September 2014.  Magnetation now employs approximately 500 people between its Minnesota and Indiana operations.  

Magnetation LLC:
Magnetation LLC is a joint venture between Magnetation, Inc. (50.1% owner) and AK Steel Corporation (49.9% owner).  Magnetation LLC recovers high-quality iron ore concentrate from previously abandoned iron ore waste stockpiles and tailings basins.  Magnetation LLC owns three iron ore concentrate plants located in Keewatin, MNBovey, MN and Grand Rapids, MN, and a 3.0 million metric tonne per year iron ore pellet plant in Reynolds, IN.


  1. Happy about employment opportunities, sad about a few other concerns: loss of “reclaimed” minelands and rec opportunities on them.
    Others can decide if that was a fair trade.

    Do not know what, if anything, Magnetation is expected to leave when they are finished at each site: have seen some “reclaimed” sites in other places that were bulldozed flat and covered with brush and weeds.

    I would suggest that the “many decades” of employment is a bit optimistic, however.

  2. Does anyone know the amount of people employed on the Range from Magnetation? It said 500 or so total between the 2 sites.

    • Ken — I don’t have the exact numbers, but I think it’s more than 400 at the Minnesota plants and less than 100 at the plant in Indiana.

    • Greetings,

      According to the Report of the County Inspector of Mines, 2014, Magnetation employs 55 people at Plant #1- Keewatin, 130 people at Plant #2- Taconite,and 80 people at the joint venture Mining Resources LLC. (also known as Plant #3- Chisholm). Those figures are provided as an average number of people employed, probably to discount new hires/fires. According to their website, Reynolds Pellet Plant, in Indiana, employs over 100 people and doesn’t list a figure for Plant Four.

  3. Whether decades or centuries of Pooh said – “What day is it?” “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day,” said Pooh.”

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