DNR reviewing documentation required to keep project moving ahead under current ownership

Mesabi Metallics has submitted documentation to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources aimed at keeping its mammoth iron ore project moving forward.

Now, it's up to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to determine whether Mesabi Metallics has met a series of project milestones as established by the state.

“We will need time to review the information we have,” Joseph Henderson, DNR Division of Lands and Minerals director said Monday via email. “We received submittals Saturday and are just seeing most documents for the first time.”

Mesabi Metallics had until Saturday (May 1), to provide the DNR with documents ensuring an $850 million financing commitment; at least $450 million in debt financing from lenders not associated with the project equity holders; and an iron ore pellet off-take contract of at least four-million tons annually.

The project near Nashwauk, Minn., has been in a work-in-progress for almost 20 years under several different developers.

However, Iron Range legislators have become increasingly frustrated as the project stands incomplete.

A mineral lease extension granted by the State Executive Council in December 2020, gave Mesabi Metallics until Saturday to meet a series of criteria as determined by the state.

Included is a stipulation requiring Mesabi Metallics to finish the primary crusher by Dec. 31, 2021, and the entire facility by June 30, 2024.

Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm is one of several Iron Range legislators concerned about the project's incompletion.

“It's my understanding that the documentation has been submitted to the DNR,” Tomassoni said Monday. “The agency will now review that documentation to confirm if compliance with the signed agreement between DNR and Mesabi Metallics has or has not been achieved. We will now have to wait and see.”

The site, near the former Butler Taconite plant north of Highway 169, contains some of the highest-quality iron ore remaining on the Iron Range.

But Iron Range legislators have become increasing aggravated as the project has dragged on without being finished.

A bill introduced by Iron Range legislators this year at the state legislature, would keep environmental permits at the site in place for at least two years should the state this year pull Mesabi Metallics' state mineral leases. The bill is aimed at keeping the permits in place for another potential developer.

The State Executive Council is expected in May to review the project status.

A Mesabi Metallics spokesman did not return a call for comment.