2013 Taconite production down, 2014 looking up

By KBJR News 1

December 18, 2013 Updated Dec 18, 2013 at 10:24 AM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The Minnesota Department of Revenue has released its estimate of taconite produced in 2013.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates that during 2013 38.9 million tons of taconite were produced. That's down from the 39.7 million they reported had been produced in 2012.

"As we reached the year end [of 2013], production levels were at or near capacity. All the mines were operating except one at full capacity almost all year," said Iron Mining Association President, Craig Pagel.

That one mine was Cliffs Natural Resources' Northshore mine. Two of its lines were idled last January. According to Bob Wagstrom, who crunches taconite numbers for the Minnesota Department of Revenue, the Northshore idling set taconite production back by an estimated 1.3 million tons this year.

Wagstrom didn't want to speak on camera, but said had it not been for the Northshore idling, 2013 would likely have surpassed 2012 in production.

Pagel says in 2014 that case is much more likely.

"2014 is actually showing a great increase. We should have all the mines operating at capacity. Not only that, but we have some new mines that will come on that will be bringing their production up to higher levels," said Pagel.

Cliffs Natural Resources has said that the Northshore mine is expected to be back up and running sometime in 2014.