Iron Range hot with major projects

Minnesota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2006  | September 2006 issue

Folks on the Iron Range have been clamoring for job growth ever since the taconite industry fell into disarray back in the 1980s. While it's too early to tell exactly how many will come to fruition, a bevy of major mining, energy and other production facilities are currently on the regional drawing board.

Though most are still in various planning stages, a collision of factors—particularly, high energy and mineral prices—suggests that many are nearer reality than even supporters would have likely guessed a few years ago. Among the proposals are two new iron ore plants (one that includes a new mine and the region's first finished-steel plant), two nickel-copper mines, a coal-gasification plant, two wood-fired power plants and a major paper mill expansion. Also being discussed, but likely years away, is a plasma gasification proposal in International Falls that would turn garbage into gas.

All told, these projects would add thousands of temporary construction jobs to cities throughout the northeastern part of the state and many year-round, good-paying jobs.

Ronald A. Wirtz