Cliffs will pay fine, fix Northshore dust problemCliffs Natural Resources will pay a $240,000 civil penalty and make changes in operations at its Northshore Mining taconite processing plant in an agreement struck with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency over air-quality violations.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Cliffs Natural Resources will pay a $240,000 civil penalty and make changes in operations at its Northshore Mining taconite processing plant in an agreement struck with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency over air-quality violations.
The PCA determined that the company violated state and federal air regulations for dust at least five times in 2010 and early 2011.
Cliffs announced this week that it has agreed to the terms of the deal, although PCA Commissioner Paul Aasen has not yet signed off on the agreement, meaning it’s not yet official. PCA officials said they could not discuss details of the case until that document is signed.
Cliffs officials say dust levels have dropped below state and federal guidelines. The company said it has taken extensive steps to reduce dust, including improved operating procedures and employee awareness training for dust emissions and water spray system improvements, new water cannons and improved controls. Yard and road areas are now seeded to enhance vegetation to keep dust down, potential sources of dust are being identified earlier and an additional camera will monitor dust levels, officials said.
“Northshore Mining regrets any impact these dust events may have had on neighboring communities and visitors to the area during this time period,” said Jim Korpi, Northshore Mining general manager. “We are committed to making continued improvements to our dust-suppression practices and to other aspects of our operation in order to maintain an environmentally responsible facility.”
In addition to the $240,175 civil penalty and a promise to increase air-monitoring efforts, Cliffs will pay $79,825 toward the purchase of seven air measurement devices to be used by the PCA to monitor air in the Silver Bay area.
Dust, which has often been an issue around the region’s mining industry, also has surfaced as a problem over the past year in Keewatin. Ore recovery efforts by Magnetation, which is extracting valuable ore out of an old tailings area, is creating large amounts of dust that blow into town when winds are from the south. City officials have worked with Magnetation to try to solve the problem that’s dropped a reddish-pink dust on Keewatin homes, cars and streets.