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HOYT LAKES, MN-A proposed $150 million commercial iron nugget plant at the former LTV Steel Mining Co. taconite operation recently won the necessary approvals for permits related to air and water quality from a state agency.

Mesabi Nugget LLC hopes to begin building the 600,000-metric-ton-a-year demonstration facility this fall. The project would yield about 400 construction jobs and more than 100 permanent jobs in northeastern Minnesota.

Despite concerns the plant could produce haze that would drift over the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and could emit too much mercury, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board approved the permits. While the Sierra Club questioned whether the permits met the federal Clean Air Act and urged caution, the club recognized the importance of Northeastern Minnesota’s taconite industry for jobs and the economy.

The agency said the permits were amended to satisfy visibility concerns from the US Forest Service, which manages the BWCA. Barring an appeal, which must be filed within 30 days, the company will finalize its financing and engineering plans and start construction in October. The project would take from approximately two years to complete.

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