MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. Steel plans to spend $150 million to upgrade one of its two Minnesota mines to produce a new kind of iron ore feedstock now used in the majority of the nation's steel mills.
The specialty “DR-grade” pellets are used to make a purer form of iron that is used to feed smaller steel mills, known as electric arc furnaces. The so-called “mini mills” now produce more than 70% of the steel in the U.S. Most of the iron ore produced in Minnesota still goes to the big blast furnaces around the Great Lakes.
With regulatory permitting, U.S. Steel would begin the upgrade this fall, either at Minntac, the state's largest iron ore mine and pellet plant in Mountain Iron, or at Keetac, a smaller facility in Keewatin, Minnesota Public Radio News reports.
United Steelworkers spokesman John Argobast said U.S. Steel's announcement is one of the biggest developments in Minnesota’s iron ore industry in decades.
“It makes Minnesota ore even more viable going into the future as steel-making in this country is moving towards electric arc furnaces,” Arbogast said. “So this makes Minnesota ore more sustainable into the future. We’re ecstatic to say the least.”
Still, Gov. Tim Walz said the upgrade is expected to create a significant number of full-time and construction jobs.
“This is good news for the Iron Range,” Walz said. “Minnesota’s steel industry exemplifies who we are as a state. It is baked into our culture and history.”