Tanker Truck Carrying Highly Explosive Ammonium Nitrate Rolled Over

By KBJR News 1

August 16, 2013 Updated Aug 16, 2013 at 6:10 PM CDT

Hibbing, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- A tanker truck, carrying 42,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, rolled on to its side close to the entrance of Hibbing Taconite on Friday morning.

Luckily no ammonium nitrate spilled from the tanker, but 5 gallons of hydraulic fluid did leak from the tanker.

Ammonium nitrate is the main ingredient in the explosives Hib-Tac uses in the mining process.

"You shouldn't be breathing the product. If it does actually explode, ya know we do have blasts here every Wednesday from Hib-Tac where they explode a lot more of the product than is in this one tanker," said Scott Nehiba, Hibbing Fire Chief.

The Hib-Tac mine, which was about 2 miles from the tanker accident, was evacuated along with all those in an area of a 1 mile radius of the mishap.

"We responded to the area and ascertained what a safe distance would be," said Marcus Bruning, Hibbing Supervising Deputy Sheriff.

The site has since been cleared, and miners are back at work.

"We used our mapping programs in our cars and were able to determine that there is no residences within 1.3 miles actually of the house so it made it actually a relatively good spot to have an incident like this occur," said Bruning.

Cliffs, which owns Hib-Tac, contracts with Dyno Nobel to haul its explosive materials.

"I think we're very fortunate. Ammonium Nitrate is very stable but if there would have been some kind of a fire on the scene then it would have been a lot worse," said Nehiba.

The explosive ammonium nitrate is used in 80% of explosives in North America.

Authorities made sure to disconnect all electrical components from the tanker truck to reduce the risk of fire and monitored the area to make sure there were no fires burning.

Authorities say the truck driver suffered a minor injury and was taken to the Range Regional Medical Center for treatment.

The Hibbing Police and Fire department were there along with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department.

Law enforcement spokespeople say the truck rolled as it was making the turn, off County Road Five on to the Hib-Tac access road.

The cause of the rollover remains under investigation.

Elsa Robins
erobins@kbjr.com