- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - An Iron Range company that mines leftover mine waste and turns it into iron ore concentrate is on the verge of shutting down unless it’s rescued by outside investors.

A federal judge approved a bankruptcy settlement Saturday that paves the way for Grand Rapids-based Magnetation to wind down operations if it doesn’t receive an influx of cash. A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 27.

Last week, Magnetation notified the U.S. Department of Labor that it may shut down its last operating concentrate plant in Minnesota around Sept. 30, as well as an iron ore pellet plant in Reynolds, Indiana, that gets concentrate from the Minnesota plant, and turns it into pellets that feed steel mills. The Minnesota plant employs about 160 workers while the Indiana facility has about 100.

“Now that this agreement is in place our sole focus is to continue to safely produce and ship high quality pellets until the operations potentially shut down, and work closely with several interested parties that are currently evaluating an investment into Magnetation to avoid a shutdown of our plants,” Magnetation President Matt Lehtinen said in a statement.

Magnetation opened its first plant in 2008 after patenting a method to extract iron ore from old mine waste. It rapidly expanded as ore prices soared, opening four plants, including the Indiana facility, in quick succession. At its peak it employed more than 500 people, but now only Plant 4 remains open in Minnesota.

Rep. Tom Anzelc, D-Balsam Township, told Minnesota Public Radio (https://bit.ly/2bSnHb9 ) that he wasn’t ready to give up on a company that was once hailed as a big success story for the Iron Range.

“They’re struggling as are all of the iron ore mines with low commodity prices,” he said. “But I’m not ready to throw in the towel.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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