Mesabi Metallics Co. LLC. has applied to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to reissue its air quality permit for the half-built iron ore mine and taconite processing center outside Nashwauk that has never operated.
The PCA announced Friday that the agency has reviewed the application and is asking for public input on the draft permit.
The draft air permit would cover dust from mining, material crushing and handling sources, combustion emissions from the pellet furnace, direct reduced iron module and electric furnace, and dust from the tailings basin.
The original permit was issued years ago as the project — the former Essar Steel Minnesota which has had multiple owners, managers and names — has floundered through construction stoppages, bankruptcies and other legal battles. In the works for more than a decade the project sits about half finished with no immediate path to actually producing ore or iron. While Essar walked away from the bankrupt project in 2015, the Mumbai, India-based company is back in the picture, trying to retake control but locked in a bitter battle with state officials over mineral leases critical for the mine to operate.
The draft permit approves modifications to the pellet plant's equipment to update and refine its design and operation. It also approves best available control technology and tightens the emission limits for these modified emission units. The modifications do not include any change — increase or decrease — in the amount of pellets that Mesabi Metallics is allowed to produce annually.
The PCA requests public comments through Sept. 14. After the public comment closes, the PCA will review any comments and, if necessary, make changes to the draft permit. The proposed permit will then be sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a 45-day review period. At the conclusion of the 45-day review, PCA will review the administrative record and decide whether to issue the permit.
Go to www.pca.state.mn.us/regulations/air-quality-permit-mesabi-metallics for more information. Send written comments to Ben Wenkel, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 520 Lafayette Rd. N., St. Paul, MN 55155.