Published July 1, 2003 | July 2003 issue
The closing of EVTAC Mining Co. in May was just another in a series of events that have Iron Range communities reeling. The plant may close permanently or reopen in the fall, but in either case about 450 employees are out of work now.
The closing also ripples through other parts of the economy: The railroad that hauls the taconite has lost a customer, Minnesota Power Co. has lost its fifth-largest purchaser of power, and other suppliers are also on the losing end. And if EVTAC doesn't pay its taconite production tax bill to the state, Iron Range communities will lose further; the taconite tax helps fund schools, communities and counties in the region.
While mine closures and cutbacks have been the recent order of the day, innovations may provide new taconite-related businesses. A pilot plant to produce iron nuggets, the first in the world of its kind, recently opened in Silver Bay. The value-added product could provide iron nuggets to minimills, foundries and integrated steel producers. In addition, research is under way to turn taconite tailings into a commercial gravel-like product. The University of Minnesota Natural Resources Research Institute is leading the study and plans to publish results in late summer.