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engineering and environmental services for new mining facility

engineering and environmental services for new mining facility
Essar Steel Minnesota LLC

integrated steel-making facility progresses from concept toward production

Minnesota Steel Industries was formed to develop a new concept in steel production—a totally integrated mining and manufacturing facility. The project at the former Butler Taconite facility near Nashwauk, Minnesota, is one of the largest industrial projects in the state’s history. When completed, it will include mining, crushing and concentrating, pelletizing, and direct reduction of the iron (DRI) to produce metallized iron pellets. These will be the sole feed material for an electric-arc furnace producing molten iron and a continuous-caster steel shop manufacturing slabs or rolled coil steel.

Barr has been involved with this project since the initial pre-feasibility study. That led to a technical feasibility study, which included an exploration drilling program, mine block modeling, resource identification and reserve estimates, 5-year and 20-year mine plans, pilot plant testing, process flowsheet development, mine development, crushing and concentrating facility development, pelletizing and DRI facility testing, as well as capital-cost and operating-cost estimates.

The results of the technical feasibility study were presented to the financial community for funding and the project was purchased by Essar Steel. We were selected by the new owner to provide basic engineering for the crusher and concentrator. This included developing flowsheets, material balances, plant and equipment general layouts, piping and instrumentation drawings (P&IDs), power system layouts, and major equipment specifications. 

Over the course of the project, we’ve assisted with environmental permitting activities leading up to issuance of a permit to mine, and air, wetlands, storm water, and dam safety permits. For more about these services, see environmental review and permitting for mine project and water permitting strategy for mine. Barr provided detailed design for the facility’s tailings basin, Department of Natural Resources dam safety permit applications, and wetlands and wild rice monitoring.

Currently, Essar is in progress constructing the first phase of the project which is developing the mine, constructing the crushers, concentrator, and pellet plant along with the necessary infrastructure such as an extensive power distribution system, tailings basin, mobile equipment shop, warehouse, and the necessary other site construction and building requirements. This first phase is estimated to cost $1.9 billion. The project started in the midst of the world economic collapse several years back and Essar has incurred setbacks brought about by financial issues. Recently, Essar has reported a rapid construction pace through the second half of 2015 with 700 construction workers on site in addition to Essar’s 125+ employees.

We have been called upon to assist with the final design in support of construction activities for specific aspects of the project utilizing civil, mechanical, electrical, structural, and process engineering staff as well as our continued environmental engineering support. These efforts have included all areas of the project from crushing through the pellet plant, tailings basin, utilities and infrastructure.

The facility is slated to begin production by the end of 2016 toward 7 million tons of taconite pellets per year. The third phase – construction of an electric-arc steel mill to produce stab steel – is dependent upon the success of the second phase and the demand for steel in the US.