Intent To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Reopening of an Idle Open Pit Taconite Mine and Construction and Operation of a Taconite Ore Concentration Plant Proposed by Mesabi Mining, LLC and Steel Dynamics, Inc. (Collectively, the Applicant) Near Aurora and Hoyt Lakes in St. Louis County, MN
Mesabi Mining, LLC and Steel Dynamics, Inc. have applied to the St. Paul District, Corps of Engineers (Corps) for a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit to discharge fill material into jurisdictional wetlands to facilitate the reopening of an open pit taconite mine and construction and operation of a taconite ore concentration plant near Aurora and Hoyt Lakes in St. Louis County, MN. Tailings would be discharged into an existing, idle open pit mine. The proposed project is known as the Mesabi Nugget Phase II Project. The project would be located entirely on portions of the site of the former LTV Steel Mining Company Facility (also known as Erie Mining Company prior to 1986). Taconite mining was conducted at the site from the late 1950s until operations ceased in early 2001. Prior to taconite mining, the area was also mined for natural iron ore in nearby pits as early as 1903. Mesabi Mining now proposes to reopen and mine taconite ore from two open pits, haul the ore in trucks to a proposed new processing plant where the ore would be crushed, ground, magnetically separated, and then passed through a flotation circuit to produce a concentrate. About one-third of the concentrate (approximately 1.04 million metric tonnes per year) would be used as feed for Mesabi Nugget Delaware's on-site Large Scale Demonstration Project (LSDP) iron nugget facility that was permitted in 2005 and will be ready for operation in the second quarter of 2009. The remainder of the concentrate (approximately 2.09 million metric tonnes per year) would be shipped by rail for use in other facilities. The mining process would require the construction of overburden and waste rock, and lean ore stockpiles adjacent to the open pits. The project would operate 24 hours per day; 365 days per year during its proposed 20-year life. The project area would be approximately 4,760 acres, of which approximately 3,820 acres (80 percent) has previously been disturbed by mining activities. The project would require the discharge of fill material into approximately 235 acres of wetlands. While some of the wetlands may be isolated, the majority of the wetlands are abutting Second Creek (a tributary to the Partridge River) or an unnamed tributary (Unnamed Creek) to the Partridge River. The Partridge River is a tributary to the St. Louis River, which is navigable water of the United States up to the mouth of the Embarrass River. The Applicant proposes to develop a detailed compensatory wetland mitigation plan for inclusion in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to provide compensation for the unavoidable wetland impacts planned during at least the first five years of the project. Conceptual wetland mitigation plans will be developed for inclusion in the DEIS to provide compensation for the unavoidable wetland impacts planned during the remainder of the project (years six through twenty). 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 (FEIS) will be used as a basis for the permit decision and to ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).