(Northland's NewsCenter)---While taconite mining has been a leading economic generator on the Iron Range for decades, its environmental effects have also been of concern.
One steel production company has worked out a deal allowing its taconite plants to meet legal standards and improve pollution controls.
US Steel has developed a new strategy to address air and water regulations simultaneously at their two taconite facilities—Minntac near Mountain Iron, and Keetac in Keewatin.
Minntac has been out of compliance with a requirement of one of its water quality permits since 2006, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
To get the water permit reinstated and to continue the expansion permitting process of the Keetac plant, US Steel will follow a schedule of compliance or SOC over the next five years.
"We are trying to keep on top all the time of what's needed to be done for environmental benefit," Craig Pagel, President of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota said.
Minntac will install new air control equipment as part of a Dry Controls Project intended to reduce a number of harmful air pollutant emissions.
The Manager of the MPCA's industrial division, Ann Foss says no other taconite producer has been willing to make a commitment to mercury control research or reductions at this point in time.
She says US Steels success in identifying a control technology will directly benefit other taconite producers and the environment.
By the year 2025, the company must reduce its mercury emissions during peak production times by 75 percent to meet statewide industry requirements.
According to US Steel, its goal for mercury removal on the expansion line is 50 to 80 percent.
US Steel says the total mercury emissions will not exceed the allowable emissions for Minntac and Keetac combined.
While the increased production will send about 54 pounds of mercury into the air every year, according to our partners at Minnesota Public Radio news, the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota says this new agreement is another step toward clean air.
"They believe that the technology will work for their needs and for their specific mine," said Pagel. "I think that's what's important to remember, it might not be the technology that would work for all the mines because each of the mines and the ore bodies are a little bit different, even the ore bodies within a mine site."
The MPCA citizens board will decide whether it will issue Keetac an air permit in September.
Posted to the web: Jennifer Walch