A Grand Rapids-based mining company has bought its second foreign iron ore mine.
Tacora Resources announced Thursday it had completed the acquisition of Sydvaranger Mining AS, an iron ore mine and processing plant in Sor-Varanger, Norway, that has not operated since 2015. The purchase price was not disclosed, but was paid for in the form of shares in Tacora, the company said in a news release.
"With this acquisition, we bring together two responsible mining companies with capacity to produce an iron ore concentrate with characteristics very desirable to steelmakers," Thierry Martel, the president and CEO of Tacora, said in the release. "The Sydvaranger Mine builds upon our strategy to deliver high-grade iron ore products to steelmakers globally allowing them to produce more steel per tonne (metric ton, or 1,000 kilograms) of raw material input and therefore reduce their environmental footprint."
Joe Broking, Tacora's executive vice president and chief financial officer, told the News Tribune that a restart date for Sydvaranger was not yet known as the company was focused on ramping up production of its other mine, the Scully Mine in Wabush, Newfoundland and Labrador, back up to its capacity of 6 million tons of pellets per year. It's currently producing about 3.5 million-4 million tons of pellets per year and employs more than 300 people.
Tacora's Grand Rapids headquarters has 11 staff. Broking would not say how many people the company expects to employ at Sydvaranger as plans could change.
The Sydvaranger mine is capable of producing up to 4 million tons of pellets per year with a 68% iron content. It operated from 1910 to 1997 and again from 2009 to 2015. Norwegian Shipping and logistics company Tschudi Group re-acquired the mine in 2016 and has been studying and seeking a potential restart since, bringing on Orion Mine Finance as a financial partner in 2018.
Tacora formed in 2017 by Matt and Larry Lehtinen, the former owners of the bankrupt Magnetation operations near Grand Rapids. Tacora bought the Scully Mine in 2017 and restarted production in summer 2019.
Larry Lehtinen was CEO of Magnetation while his son, Matt Lehtinen, was president. At its peak in 2014, Magnetation had more than 500 employees, but closed its plant and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015 as iron ore prices plummeted.
Broking said Larry Lehtinen was still on Tacora's board of directors while Matt Lehtinen "had moved on" but did not comment further on his departure.