Intent To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Construction and Operation of an Open Pit Taconite Mine, an Ore Concentrator, a Pellet Plant, a Direct Reduced Iron Plant, a Steel Mill, and a Tailings Basin Proposed by Minnesota Steel Industries, LLC Near Nashwauk in Itasca County, MN
Minnesota Steel Industries, LLC (Minnesota Steel) has applied to the St. Paul District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) for a permit to discharge fill material into wetlands to facilitate the construction and operation of an open pit taconite mine at the former Butler Taconite site near Nashwauk, Minnesota, and the construction of new facilitiesa crusher, a concentrator, a pellet plant, a plant for producing direct reduced iron (DRI), and a steel mill consisting of two electric arc furnaces, two idle furnaces, two thin slab casters, and a sheet rolling mill. the former Butler Taconite Stage 1 tailings basin would be reactivated for the disposal of concentrator tailings. The mining process would require the construction of overburden, waste rock, and lean ore stockpiles just north of the proposed mine site. Ore would be hauled via truck from the mine to the adjacent ore concentrator. Concentrating the ore would involve crushing, grinding, magnetic separation, and flotation processes. Concentrator tailings would be pumped as slurry to the former Butler Taconite Stage 1 tailings basin approximately two miles southeast of the proposed mine site. The concentrate would be mixed with a binder and limestone, and converted to unfired pellets in balling drums or disks. The unfired pellets would be hardened in an indurating furnace. The DRI plant would convert the iron oxide pellets to nearly pure iron pellets (DRI pellets) in a 300- to 425-foot-high vertical shaft reactor. The DRI pellets would be fed to steel mill, which would produce hot rolled sheet steel. Project plans call for the mining of approximately 12.8 million long tons of crude ore per year at a stripping ratio of approximately 0.50:1. Approximately 2.4 million short tons per year of hot rolled sheet steel would be produced. The project would employ approximately 700 people for production, support, and administration. Economic feasibility of the project is based on a 20-year project life. Minnesota Steel at this time cannot predict whether investments for further operations would be economically desirable. Therefore, mine planning and detailed design are being prepared for 20 years of operation and environmental permits are being requested for a 20-year project life. If the project is permitted, and if Minnesota Steel proposes to extend the project life beyond the 20- year period, then modifications to the Section 404 permit and supplemental environmental review would be required. The project would require dredging or discharging fill material into approximately 1,014 acres of wetlands. While some of the wetlands may be isolated, the majority of the wetlands are adjacent to Oxhide Creek, Snowball Creek, Pickerel Creek, or O'Brien Creek, which are tributaries to the Swan River, or they are adjacent to an unnamed tributary to the Prairie River or to an unnamed tributary to Sucker Brook, which is a tributary to the Prairie River. The Swan River and the Prairie River are tributaries to the Mississippi River, which is a navigable water of the United States. A specific compensatory wetland mitigation plan has not been developed for the project. Minnesota Steel intends to work with interested Federal and state agencies to develop an acceptable plan that would meet Federal and state compensatory mitigation requirements. The discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States requires a permit issued by the Corps under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The final environmental impact statement will be used as a basis for the permit decision and to ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).