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Cargill buys into Iron Range's Magnetation

International commodities giant Cargill announced today it is investing in Nashwauk-based Magnetation Inc. to latch on to the Iron Range company's new technology to recover high-grade iron ore from low-grade deposits, old mine sites and waste dumps.

International commodities giant Cargill announced today it is investing in Nashwauk-based Magnetation Inc. to latch on to the Iron Range company's new technology to recover high-grade iron ore from low-grade deposits, old mine sites and waste dumps.

Cargill gets the exclusive, worldwide right to jointly develop and apply the technology with Magnetation and the right to market the recovered iron concentrate to its international iron ore customers.

"We've taken a financial interest in Magnetation's Plant 1 ... and will take what Magnetation is doing on the Iron Range to worldwide markets," Robert Mann, vice president of Cargill's Ferrous International division, told the News Tribune.

Mann said the deal combines Magnetation's technological promise and Cargill's massive global commodity sales and development reach.

The two companies hope to cooperatively build iron recovery plants at iron ore mining hotspots in Asia and other locations, Mann said.

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It's Wayzata, Minn.-based Cargill's first venture into iron ore on the Iron Range.

Larry Lehitnen, Magnetation's chief executive officer, said few changes are expected in Iron Range operations. Cargill is the largest privately held company by revenue in the U.S.

Lehtinen founded Magnetation in 2006 and built his first plant in 2008 near Keewatin, with its first product shipped last February. The company now employs about 50 people with increased production and employment expected later this year.

Construction will start on a second plant near Taconite in Itasca County later this year, Lehitnen said Thursday.

"There will be minimal impacts on our Iron Range plans (from the Cargill investment)," Lehtinen said, except that Magnetation will have the benefit of Cargill's partnership, Lehitnen said.

The two companies said Cargill's investment will help enable Magnetation to boost its production of recovered iron in Minnesota from 150,000 to 450,000 tons per year.

Cargill said the technology promises both economic and environmental benefits as old tailings basins can be tapped for valuable iron and transformed "into functioning ecological wetlands."

The recovered hematite ore is a high-value iron concentrate that can be used in a variety of products such as sinter plant feed or blast furnace, nugget plant feed and direct-reduced iron-grade pellet feed -- all the basic materials used in iron and steel-making worldwide.

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Cargill has been a global marketer of pig iron and finished steel for more than 40 years, Mann said, but is co-owner of only one steelmaking plant, in Ohio.

Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. Founded in 1865, the privately held company employs 131,000 people in 66

countries.

Related Topics: IRON RANGEMINING
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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