TOLEDO, Ohio – Wednesday, a group of Minnesota House DFL lawmakers toured Cleveland Cliffs’ Direct Reduction plant that produces hot-briquetted iron (HBI) in Toledo, Ohio. The state-of-the-art plant, completed in 2020, uses ore from Northshore Mining in Babbitt as feedstock. It is the first and only HBI producer in the Great Lakes Region.
“Direct Reduction is a groundbreaking process in mining that develops materials we all count on every single day while playing a major role in our goal to reduce climate change. It was an eye-opening experience to witness it up close,” said Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL – Aurora). “In Minnesota, it is imperative that we seize every opportunity available to us to take advantage of modern, efficient technologies, and I’m hopeful we can come together – both as a state and with private companies – to move ahead with a similar plant in Minnesota. This is exactly the type of technology and investment that needs to happen in Minnesota with partners like Cliffs who are committed to advancing the next generation of mining in an environmentally-friendly way.”
“Cliffs’ HBI plant is the model that entities across the globe will look to in the mining industry, with cutting-edge technology resulting in fewer carbon emissions and new job opportunities,” said Rep. Julie Sandstede (DFL – Hibbing). “Clean, ‘green’ steel is no longer a thing of the future; it is here now. Cliffs is a global leader and we are fortunate to partner with them in Minnesota.”
The direct reduction process utilizes natural gas to reduce iron oxide and heat, producing significantly less greenhouse gas emissions compared to other energy sources as reducing agents, like coal. Lawmakers were joined by Cliff’s CEO Lourenco Goncalves, who is working to continue a partnership with Minnesota on mutual goals to boost job opportunities in the state, while responsibly developing Minnesota’s natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Confronting climate change requires innovative solutions, and steel from Minnesota iron ore can be one of those solutions,” said Rep. Jamie Long (DFL - Minneapolis), chair of the House Climate and Energy Committee. “The processes we saw at Cliffs’ HBI plant reduce carbon emissions a remarkable 50 percent compared to traditional ironmaking. Embracing emerging technologies like this will help build a stronger, more sustainable economy while supporting workers and communities.”
“With the threat of climate change continuing to grow, we all must put our best foot forward to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With their Direct Reduction plant, Cliffs has demonstrated their commitment to being part of the solution,” said Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL - Coon Rapids), chair of the House Commerce Committee. “I’m hopeful companies like Cliffs will continue to develop new technologies that will support our economy while also better supporting the future for our planet.”
One potential opportunity in Minnesota is the former Mesabi Metallics/Essar Steel site in Nashwauk, a location where Minnesota currently controls mineral leases, which could be home to a new HBI plant. A new facility could also extend the life of Hibbing Taconite, which is rapidly running out of iron ore. In May, following a series of failed deadlines, the state pulled mineral leases from Mesabi, opening the door for a new operator to take over the site and begin development.
“It was great to have the opportunity to visit Cliffs’ Toledo Direct Reduction plant, where we were able to see pellets from Minnesota’s Northshore facility being unloaded and fed into the plant to make hot-briquetted iron (HBI),” said Ida Rukavina, Executive Director of the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools. “Cliffs has shown they are committed to new, clean technology, using Minnesota ore to make the products that are needed to keep our country growing and moving forward. Cliffs is a strong partner in making sure that our Iron Range townships, schools and cities continue to thrive into the future.”
PHOTO: Patrick Bloom, Cleveland Cliffs’ Vice President of Government Relations, Sandy Karnowski, Cleveland Cliffs Public Affairs Manager, Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis), Chair of the House Climate and Energy Committee, Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL - Coon Rapids), Chair of the House Commerce Committee, Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL - Aurora), Jim Kochevar, Cleveland Cliffs Vice President of Iron Ore Operations), Rep. Julie Sandstede (DFL - Hibbing), Ida Rukavina, Executive Director, Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, and Cleveland Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves tour Cliffs’ state-of-the-art Direct Reduction plant in Toledo, Ohio.
PHOTO: Rep. Lislegard, Rep. Sandstede, Goncalves, Rukavina, Rep. Stephenson, Rep. Long, and Kochevar look up-close at pellets produced from ore from Northshore Mining in Babbitt.