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Map courtesy of Itasca County
By Beth Bily
As part of agreements reached with Itasca County this fall, Magnetation will pay the costs associated with moving portions of snowmobile and bike trails to make way for its Plant 4 project near Bovey/Coleraine.
Magnetation is already in the beginning construction phase for its Plant 4 project, which like other company operations in Itasca County, will extract iron ore concentrates from old tailings basins.
Plants One and Two (located near Keewatin and Bovey/Taconite) collectively have a 1.6 million metric ton annual capacity. The company also has a 20 percent ownership stake (the remaining 80 percent is owned by Steel Dynamics Inc.) in a third iron ore concentrate operation near Chisholm. Concentrates from the Chisholm operation are shipped to Mesabi Nugget in Hoyt Lakes to make iron nuggets.
In October, the Itasca County Board of Commissioners approved lease agreements with the company to make way for the Plant Four mining development. That was followed by a November meeting, which included local stakeholders, company executives and county officials, aimed at finding alternative routes for two miles of the Keystone Snowmobile Trail and one mile of the Mesabi Bike Trail.
According to Garrett Ous, county land commissioner, the snowmobile trail “will be re-routed off the Taconite Trail following the north Right-of-Way County Road 61 to connect up to the original trail.”
The Mesabi Bike Trail “will be re-routed along the south Right-of-Way of County Road 61 then cross the highway to the north, paralleling the Keystone Snowmobile Trail to connect up to the original trail heading into Coleraine,” said Ous.
Magnetation President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Lehtinen said the agreement reached to move the trails at the company’s expense is consistent with its mission “to create jobs without disrupting local recreational facilities.”
The company’s pledge to bear the costs associated with moving the trails was agreed upon in writing in lease agreement with the county, which stipulates that: “they will be responsible for all costs, fees and expenses arising from the routing, establishment, design and construction of trail relocation.”
Prep work for moving the trails already has taken place, ‘said Lehtinen. Construction on the re-routed trails will begin next season – in tandem with the construction of Plant 4. The estimated cost of re-routing is somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 according to company executives.
Lehtinen told the newspaper that concrete pouring for Plant 4 would begin in early 2014. A groundbreaking ceremony is expected to take place in the near future, although the date has yet to be scheduled. The company already has begun hiring personnel for the new plant, he said.