Gov. Mark Dayton, state and mining industry leaders will hold a town hall meeting in Nashwauk, Minn., Monday to tell locals about plans to restart construction of the controversial $2 billion Essar Steel/Mesabi Metallics project on Minnesota’s Iron Range.
The meeting hopes to clarify when construction can begin and answer questions in the wake of a lawsuit from Cleveland Cliffs that challenges who has the right to mining permits for the vast property, which until recently was tied up in bankruptcy court for nearly two years.
Joining Dayton Monday will be DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr; Mark Phillips, commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB); and Gary Heasley, the chief executive of Mesabi Metallics.
Dayton said local residents and contractors may ask questions during the meeting. He lamented that “Lately, discussions have been infected by too much wrong information and false claims. That is why it is important to have this conversation.”
Mesabi Metallics, formerly Essar Steel Minnesota, exited bankruptcy with new owners in December. Heasley and others at Mesabi have vowed to complete the half-built taconite processing complex in Nashwauk. The project went bankrupt in July 2016, after then-owners Mumbai-based Essar Global ran into financial turmoil.
This month, Mesabi Metallics said it hired Jamar Co. and Rice Lake Construction to finish the ore processing complex in Nashwauk. The plan calls for Mesabi Metallics to spend $650 million to complete the project, and construction is expected to increase over the next few weeks.
Wednesday, Mesabi Metallics said it asked a federal court for permission to mine and develop select acres in Nashwauk, to which it holds a 50 percent interest. Mesabi said it owns the surface rights and/or the mineral rights to about 14,000 of 21,000 acres of the iron ore deposit in Nashwauk. Mesabi also holds the long-term mineral-rights leases on another 6,000 acres.
To complicate matters, company officials noted that Mesabi Metallics and its rival Cleveland Cliffs hold a 50-50 percent shared interest in about 1,040 acres.
In a news conference last week, Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves complained that Cliffs was unfairly treated by the state with regard to the Nashwauk property, which Cliffs had hoped to control outright.