Hello Steeltown; Goodbye, DFL

Jamestown, North Dakota.

15,000 people.  At confluence of the James and Pipestem rivers, about 90 miles west of Fargo.  Home to a state hospital and psychiatric prison (which sounds like something the MN DFL would build for Republicans, but it’s really pretty normal), a school for the profoundly handicapped, a college (my alma mater, as it happens), and a whooole bunch of agricultural businesses…

…and, soon, an iron mill.

A North Dakota company plans to build a $60 million iron producing plant near Jamestown, N.D., using iron ore concentrate from Minnesota.

A subsidiary of Bismarck-based Carbontec Energy Corp. called E-Nugget North Dakota LLC has unveiled plans to churn out 100,000 metric tons of iron annually using North Dakota sugar beet residue in the mix instead of coke coal.

It’s an interesting project; the plant will extract ore from tailings from the old iron mines up north that used to be economically un-feasible to extract.  There are millions of tons of now-usable ore piled up up north.

It’s Minnesota ore, and the research has Minnesota ties…:

The E-Nugget iron making process was developed by Carbontec and Michigan Technological University over the past five years, including large-scale batch tests at a Minneapolis facility, John Simmons, president of Carbontec, said Monday. The company already has plans to expand to a 300,000-ton plant if the startup goes well.

But the plant is being built in North Dakota.  Granted, it’s Jamestown, which – as it’s been throughout most of it’s history – has been safely tucked away from excessive prosperity.  100 miles east of the oil fields and their jobs, and 90 miles west from cha-cha, booming Fargo (yes, I said “cha-cha Fargo”; it makes sense in context), Jamestown is one of few parts of North Dakota that isn’t overheating economically so far.

But it’s not Flint or Newark or Cleveland.  It’s not even Minneapolis, much less Grand Rapids or Virginia, unemployment-wise.

So why there?

Simmons said the Jamestown site is well-situated because of easy access to sugar beet residue feedstock and also because it is adjacent to a Great River Energy power plant and directly on the BNSF rail line. He said the iron ore concentrate could move from the Grand Rapids area to North Dakota in rail cars that move western coal east but generally have been empty on their return trip west.

“We can get the right quality material from Grand Rapids and the rail routes make sense,” Simmons said.

So let’s get this straight;  Jamestown ND, which is about 90 miles from the sugar beet waste, and probably 300 from the iron ore tailings, gets the plant.

Why’s that?

Magnetation expects to start construction on a fourth plant northwest of Coleraine this year. That plant will produce 2 million tons of concentrate [that’s the part you dig up, before you process it into iron] annually and will be ready to feed a new Indiana pellet plant the company now is building to supply partner AK Steel with iron ore for its furnaces by 2015. That new Itasca County facility is expected to employ another 160 people. The Coleraine plant ultimately will shift to get its ore from traditional open pit mining. (The company has shelved plans to build a recovery plant at Calumet.)


Simmons noted Carbontec also created an E Nugget Minnesota LLC and considered building the plant in Minnesota using wood waste from logging sites as the reductant or binder. He said the company chose North Dakota instead, in part because it’s so much easier to get permits in North Dakota.

Score one for the DFL Environmental Lobby!  More jobs exported to North Dakota!

Let’s let that one sink in; between taxes and permits, it’s cheaper to ship rock 300 miles than it is to process it in Minnesota.

Thanks, Minnesota DFL!

16 thoughts on “Hello Steeltown; Goodbye, DFL

  1. Don’t worry Moonshine Mark and his merry band of Luddites will shut down shipments of ore to ND via his minions the Sierra Club.

  2. Economic activity leads to unequal outcomes.
    Therefore it must be stopped.

  3. Gotta tax em. How about a wheelage tax on railcars? A nickel per ton should do it.

  4. Wait a second. They’re drying out sugar beet fiber and coking it, taking it 90 miles on the train, and then making pig iron out of iron ore tailings–that have gone 300 iles–with a low iron content.

    All while their competition is coking coal and using premium taconite.

    And it’s part of a university study.

    Five will get you ten DOE loans and subsidies are involved. This one doesn’t pass the smell test for business plan.

  5. Why not go to Walker’s Wisconsin? That would make sense when you look at the ore mining and the final steel markets.

    Well…..Wisconsin hasn’t been totally transformed into a pro-business paradise. Its not as simiple as 1 election. Wisc could easily swing back during the next election. Also….looney leftwingers from Madison and the Twin Cities has pledged low level violence to stop the Iron County mine that is trying to open. NoDak does not have these concerns.

  6. Besides Sioux Falls ramping up their commercials on the radio (more or less tailored to the current Minn anti-business legislation)…..I was in the Mall of America today. South Dakota has a kiosk. Promoting jobs and business opportunities in the state. They make it clear why one would want to move to South Dakota over Minnesota.

  7. Oh, and remember, for the most part, the DFL supports new mines and plants on the range. The area votes about 75% DFL, and all jobs would be union.

    So if you can’t open a 100% unionized mill in an area the is 100% pro-mining Democrat represented, you know you have a problem.

    So Steel Workers, hows that “blue-green” alliance working out for you (see Mesabi Daily News from Virginia on this).

  8. So if you can’t open a 100% unionized mill in an area the is 100% pro-mining Democrat represented, you know you have a problem.

    See Polymet and any other significant mining operation in the past session. The DFL’s MPCA is making it hard to get permits to open new manufacturing or mining operations.

    Hence North Dakota.

  9. Why not go to Walker’s Wisconsin?

    Because the empty trains go west.

    Seriously – I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen the parade of coal trains that come through the West to the Twin Cities. Even when I was a kid, every day there’d be several coal trains heading east every day. That’s a LOT of empty eastbound rolling stock.

  10. I have roots in the 218 area code.

    My godson works for a small family-owned business in Duluth which tests and repairs industrial equipment and structures. The mines hire them occasionally to inspect related items.

    They are separate entities who do not work for the mines. They are only hired by them for a short term, limited purpose. When they do work at the mines it usually takes a couple days on-site. While there, my godson is not allowed to eat in the company lunchroom because he is not a union member. Makes no difference that his company would not be able to join their union if they wanted to. “Union Members Only.” So he has to eat in his car.

    Sadly, the mining industry offers very well-paying/ low skill jobs to many people who would have trouble earning even minimum wage in the outside world. However, the union attitude had been so ingrained that the workers actually believe that they are entitled to the outrageous demands they make during contract negotiations. Between “boom and bust” related lay-offs.

    Is ND a right-to-work state?

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