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Cliffs' Ohio iron plant gets key permit

The state of Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency last week issued a final air emissions permit-to-install for IronUnits, a proposed iron briquette manufacturing facility in Toledo that will be owned and operated by Cleveland-Cliffs.

The agency said the permit is one of several needed for the company to build the plant at the former Ironville Terminal in East Toledo, along the Maumee River not far from Lake Erie.

The agency said the plant, slated to open in 2020, is expected to release carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and greenhouse gas pollutants as it produces nearly 2.5 million tons of hot briquetted iron per year.

The $700 million plant, which will employ 130 people, will get its feedstock, specially-made taconite iron ore pellets, from Cliffs' Northshore Mining operations in Silver Bay. Cliffs will spend more than $50 million this year upgrading the Silver Bay processing center to make larger quantities of the special pellet, but will not add any jobs there.

The hot briquetted iron will be used in electric arc steel mills, a new market for Minnesota iron ore which has traditionally gone to larger blast furnaces.

Cliffs still needs to secure permits from the Ohio EPA's Division of Surface Water before the company can begin physical construction of the facility.