Essar Steel Announces Project Accomplishments

By KBJR News 1

August 22, 2012 Updated Aug 22, 2012 at 8:23 PM CDT

Nashwauk, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Essar Steel Minnesota announced major achievements for its iron ore mining and taconite pellet plant near Nashwauk Wednesday.

"It's come a long way," said Chief of Projects, Steve Rutherford, "All together it's well over 500,000 man hours. So that's a huge accomplishment."

During a tour of the site with IRRRB members, company spokespeople announced that they've secured over a billion dollars in project financing, the amount needed for their initial production of 4.1 million tons per year of taconite pellets.

Despite the fact that I come here and watch the progress often, every time I come after a couple of weeks I see the progress is much more advanced," said President & CEO, Madhu Vuppuluri.

The project is now at about the halfway point for engineering and construction.

"Every goal we put in front of them, they broke," said Rutherford.

The company recently began putting up steel structures throughout the site, began construction on the project's tailings basin and received pieces of equipment necessary for operating the plant. Accomplishments that company officials say have a lot to do with dedicated teamwork and community support.

"I've built plants in a lot of different states and we're fortunate to have a good workforce here that have really knowledgeable and technical skill sets," said Rutherford.

The company says it has secured all the permits needed to operate the plant.

While they are proud of their progress, company officials acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done.

"There's a lot of work to still be accomplished and as a team, what we have accomplished so far, gives me confidence that we can get to the goalpost of the middle of 2013," said Vuppuluri.

The company's goal is to become operational by June of 2013.

The project is the first taconite plant to be constructed on the Iron Range in decades.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.