Mesabi Nugget Water Pollution
Mesabi Nugget was Minnesota’s first plant to turn iron ore concentrate recovered from old mine sites into iron nuggets. These nuggets are used to enhance scrap metal in electric art “mini-mill” steel mills. The Mesabi Nugget plant opened in 2009 and closed in January 2015 due to market factors. Even during times of upswing in the iron ore industry, Mesabi Nugget has remained shuttered.
The Mesabi Nugget plant had problems complying with air emissions standards. In addition, in 2012, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) proposed to grant a variance that would allow Mesabi Nugget to violate water quality standards for four pollutants: total dissolved salts, bicarbonates, hardness and ionic conductivity. These pollutants can harm the aquatic food chain and natural stands of wild rice.
Under the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must approve any state variance from pollution control standards. The EPA approved the Mesabi Nugget variance.
As a result of litigation by WaterLegacy and our allies in federal district court, the EPA reversed its decision to approve the Mesabi Nugget variance.