Duluth-based Allete Inc. last week reported strong second-quarter earnings and revealed that its Minnesota Power division will seek a general rate increase in coming months, the first general increase in nearly seven years.

Allete reported second quarter 2016 earnings of 50 cents per share on net income of $24.8 million and operating revenue of $314.8 million.

That’s up from last year’s 46 cents per share on net income of $22.5 million and operating revenue of $323.3 million.

Officials said the slow recovery of taconite iron ore production has weighed on electronic sales.

“As expected, this quarter’s results reflect lower sales to Minnesota Power’s taconite customers with some mining operations remaining temporarily idled during the quarter,’’ Allete CEO Alan Hodnik told industry analysts in a teleconference explaining the results. “We are seeing positive trends develop on the foreign steel dumping front that have been negatively impacting taconite production on Minnesota’s Iron Range since the beginning of 2015.”

Storm damage costly

Company officials said damages to electric supply infrastructure from the massive July 21 windstorm may have cost “in the $4 million to $6 million range” to repair, some of which will be capitalized. “We have filed for regulatory approval to defer the expense portion of the restoration cost, but we cannot predict ultimate approval or timing,’’ said Steve DeVinck, Allete CFO, according to a SeekingAlpha transcript of the teleconference.

Minnesota Power rate hike in works

Company officials disclosed that they will seek a general rate increase for Minnesota Power customers later this year. That general increase would be in addition to a requested rate shift now under consideration by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that would lower rates for taconite plants and paper mills and raise rates for homes and other businesses.

The general rate increase would be the first in nearly seven years for Minnesota Power, DeVinck said.

The utility will ask for the rate increase to be imposed on an interim basis as early as 2017, with final approval coming later. The company said the size of the proposed rate increase will be disclosed when it’s filed with state regulators.

“Minnesota Power will be filing in the fourth quarter a request with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to increase base retail electric rates,’’ DeVinck told analysts. “The request will focus on seeking recovery of investments that have enhanced and added resiliency to the region’s electric system. These investments have included upgrading thermal generating units, repairing and strengthening our hydroelectric generating resources, investments in new and existing transmission assets to improve reliability.”