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Mesabi Metallics celebrates mine plans despite leasing setbacks

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Mesabi Metallics Larry Sutherland
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NASHWAUK, MN -- Just weeks after the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said it would move forward with terminating Mesabi Metallics' mineral leases, the company celebrated its plans to build a taconite and pelletization facility in Nashwauk.

At the beginning of May, the DNR’s ordered the company to prove it had $200 million immediately available for the project. But on May 5, the DNR said that requirement was not met.

In a luncheon celebration Wednesday, the company’s new President and Chief Operating Officer Larry Sutherland said Mesabi Metallics meets all critical requirements from the DNR.

He claimed they have all the money needed to get the project started, they just want confirmation the state will not pull their leases.

"We don't want a legal battle over that," Sutherland said. "We want to resolve this amicably and move this facility forward as everyone in this state should want."

Sutherland said the money was not available at first because of the COVID-19 crisis in India.

"We're committed to, within 48 hours, two business days, to have the rest of that money with the first $100 million we put in, within two business days," Sutherland said. "The company just needs a commitment that those leases are not going to be terminated."

He is confident the DNR's decision will be reversed.

"We're hopeful to work through all of that and move forward, and we need the community's support to do that, and we will finish the construction and start this facility in a timely fashion," Sutherland said.

Also in attendance Wednesday, Nashwauk Mayor Calvin Saari touted the half-built iron ore mine project, which is decades in the making.

"We've waited so many years, the people in this community," Saari said. "Particularly the last 14 years have been so frustrating with this project being on again then off again and another disappointment with it that I think a lot of our citizens and particularly business community got to the point where they lost faith and lost confidence that it would ever come."

The city of Nashwauk has financial stake in the project's success.

"There's been frustrations," Saari said. "We've been deceived many times before, but this is a different set of companies. I'm very very pleased to say that it's been right. The CEOs and the chief executives, the money people behind this, have made an effort to sit down with me and talk several times with it."

Mesabi Metallics said the $850 million project will support nearly 1,000 construction jobs by next spring and add more than 300 long-term jobs once construction is finished.

"The creation of this many jobs is huge for this region, and it will impact this region for generations to come," Sutherland said.

Sutherland said crews can get to work immediately, they just need cooperation from the DNR.

The DNR gave Mesabi Metallics 20 days to prove they meet the requirements or the mining lease will officially end.

The DNR also said they are still reviewing documentation submitted by the company.

They do not have any further comment at this point.

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Kendall Jarboe

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