The iron ore was mined and processed by its bankrupt predecessor, but ERP Iron Ore this week shipped its first product ever to its first customers.

The new version of the bankrupt Magnetation operations shipped three trainloads of iron ore to customers, including concentrate from near Grand Rapids to a Mexican steel mill and other concentrate that was shipped from the company's Reynolds, Ind., pellet plant.

Another trainload of ore was scheduled to move any day, said Tom Clarke, ERP owner, with the week's shipments totaling about 30,000 tons.

The southbound trains are the first sign of life at the former Magnetation since it was brought out of bankruptcy by Clarke and his new company, ERP Iron Ore.

Robb Bigelow, ERP's head of Minnesota operations, said more shipments will follow as ERP gears up to full production.

"We are excited about a newly established relationship with a major steel producer in Mexico to help fill in some supply needs," Bigelow told the News Tribune. "We expect this relationship to grow into even larger opportunities for iron ore concentrate, pellets and eventually pig iron as well."

It's good news for Clarke and his efforts because it's the first revenue for the company after sending millions of dollars to revive the operations.

It will be mid-summer or later before ERP's pellet plant in Indiana is refurbished to comply with federal air-pollution rules. ERP took over the company not realizing how serious air-pollution violations were in Indiana. The upgrades will cost some $10 milion, Clarke has said.

Clarke hopes to have the Grand Rapids-area mining and concentrating operations up and running this summer, ready to ship ore to Indiana. Pellets made in Indiana will go to make pig iron in Lorain, Ohio, in a deal with Republic Steel, Clarke has said.

Clarke, who made his first millions in health care, also owns eight coal mines in the U.S. and Canada. ERP was his first venture into iron ore and he has since moved the former Essar Steel Minnesota project out of bankruptcy and is moving ahead with an all-new taconite iron ore mine, processing center and pig-iron plant in Nashwauk.