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Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Residents voice concerns about Magnetation mining lease
Should Magnetation begin open pit mining at a site near Coleraine, some local recreational facilities could face an impact.
On March 6, the Minnesota Executive Council granted the Grand Rapids-based mining company a 25-year minerals lease. At a local March 14 meeting, led by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Assistant Director of Lands and Minerals John Engesser, officials addressed the process that would be followed should Magnetation mine those lands in coming years. The lease area includes 600 acres of school trust lands and another 160 acres of tax forfeit lands. Leases on the same lands were previously issued to Cleveland Cliffs and Hanna Mining Co.
Currently, Magnetation mines natural ore tailings basins (scram mining) located on the Western Mesabi Range at sites near Keewatin and Taconite. The company also plans to break ground later this year on an additional scram operation near Coleraine and plans are in place for yet another site near Calumet. But, the recently issued minerals lease lands are an in-ground deposit that would require a more traditional, open-faced mining approach.
Local government officials and members of the public turned out in the dozens for the local meeting, held at Mt Itasca in Coleraine, Here, officials addressed the process the company would follow should it move forward with open pit mining plans.
Engesser said Magnetation would face a three to five year process, much longer than the process required for its scram operations, if open pit mining is pursued. Mining can’t begin until a permit to mine is issued following comprehensive environmental review. That process requires oversight by both state and federal agencies, he said.
Local officials and residents expressed concern about the fate of a number of recreational facilities if a permit to mine is issued. Facilities located within or near the mining lease area include: Mesabi Bike Trail, Keystone snowmobile trail, Itasca Gun Club, a county public water access and Nordic ski trails. A 40-acre parcel where Mt. Itasca ski hill and jumps are located was not included in the lease.
The environmental review process could include mitigation of trails or other facilities that would require relocation. The most likely facility to face a move is the local gun club, which sits on top of a tailings basin.
Engesser said the price of iron ore would likely dictate if more mining takes place. “If demand continues (at present levels) for the next five to eight years, I think the gun club will move,” he said.
Right now, however, what may need relocation is purely speculation since the company has yet to present the DNR with a mine plan.
Meanwhile, there will be benefit to the school land trust, which will receive a $54,000 “rental” fee for the school trust lands and an additional $14,400 in income will be generated from the tax forfeit lands (divided among Greenway schools, Itasca County and local government) for the life of the lease, whether or not mining takes place.
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