Massive taconite plant proposed near Canadian National line

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ASHLAND, Wis. — A major mining company has proposed an 8-million-ton-per-year mine and processing plant for iron ore near Canadian National’s Ashland Subdivision, the Duluth (Minn.) News-Tribune has reported. If opened, Cline Group’s Gogebic Taconite plant would be the first ore operation on the Gogebic Iron Range since the 1960s.

At full planned production, the plant would produce enough ore to fill approximately two 12,000-ton unit trains of ore per day. Like ore from other plants near the Great Lakes, it would ship by rail to an ore dock, then be transferred to lakeboats. Cline is also looking at production of iron nuggets, a more refined, higher-grade ore that can be used in electric arc furnaces. Nuggets would likely ship by rail to their destinations.

Cline’s studying whether the ore would ship to docks at Ashland; Superior, Wis.; or Escanaba, Mich. CN serves all three points.

The plant is proposed for the Penokee Hills east of Mellen, Wis. CN would likely build a spur into the plant.

Taconite pellets are produced at seven U.S. plants, all located adjacent to mines, in northern Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Gogebic Range was a major iron mining center until the 1960s, producing traffic for Chicago & North Western and Soo Line. The last mines in the district closed as high-grade natural ore deposits were depleted, but companies have proposed taconite operations there through the years.

Cline proposes to begin taking samples this year, once permits are obtained. They hope to break ground in 2014 and begin shipping in 2016. However, the permitting and environmental review process could push that opening back.
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