Minnesota produced $3.3 billion of nonfuel minerals in 2016, ranking fifth in value among states, according to government data.
Minnesota mines produced 4.4 percent of the nation's nonfuel minerals, with iron ore, sand, gravel and crushed stone topping the list of minerals mined from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, according to a recent report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey's National Minerals Information Center.
Minnesota's production was exceeded by Nevada, Arizona, Texas and California.
Minnesota's Iron Range in the northeast pocket of the state boasts the largest and richest iron ore depository nationwide. It is home to more than seven mining and ore pelletizing processing operations, including United Taconite, Hibbing Taconite, Northshore Mining, Keetac and MinnTac.
Mining experts noted that Minnesota's mining power is likely to edge higher on the government agency's list this year. That's because several iron processing plants that sat idle last year have recently gone (or plan to go) back into full production.
Last summer, United Taconite not only reopened its idled iron-ore operations in Forbes/Eveleth but also broke ground for a new $65 million pelletizing plant that will sit next door to the older structure.
Six weeks ago, U.S. Steel said it will reopen its shuttered Keetac plant in March thanks to the receipt of a new supply contract. Keetac shut in May 2015 during an industry wide slowdown that was hobbled by historically low iron-ore prices and by the illegal dumping of underpriced steel into the United States.
There is still uncertainty in the Iron Range, though.
For example, a U.S. bankruptcy judge earlier this month permitted the sale of the bankrupt Grand Rapids-based Magnetation to ERP Iron Ore in Virginia. ERP owner Tom Clarke said he hopes to get at least some of Magnetation's idled ore-processing plants operating again this year. The Grand Rapids plant is likely to be the first one reopened. It is unclear what the fate holds for the Bovey, Coleraine and Keewatin operations.
The former Essar Steel Minnesota, now Mesabi Metallic, remains in bankruptcy and has an estimated $1 billion of debt. The company has been building a taconite plant in Nashwauk, Minn., on and off for a decade. Currently, it is only 50 percent built.