Friday, February 01, 2008 By Aaron Brown
Oberstar Applauds U.S. Steel Investment in Keewatin Taconite
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jim Oberstar says U.S. Steel’s decision to invest $300 million in Keewatin Taconite (Keetac) is an important step towards making Minnesota taconite more competitive in the global marketplace. The project will produce 500 construction jobs over 3 years and 75 – 100 permanent jobs for the Iron Range. Production at the U.S. Steel’s Keewatin plant will increase from the current six million tons a year to nearly ten million tons of taconite pellets.
“Minnesota iron ore has gone global. Our taconite pellets are feeding blast furnaces from Cleveland to China,” said Oberstar. “With this announcement, U.S. Steel demonstrates it has the vision and capacity to compete world-wide. Keetac sits on one of the richest bodies of iron ore on the Range, and this investment at Keetac will create profits for U.S. Steel and long-term, full-time jobs for iron ore miners on the Iron Range. Steel production is a mainstay of American industrial productivity, and Minnesota’s Iron Range fuels that production.”
Keeping Minnesota’s taconite industry competitive has been one of Oberstar’s top priorities throughout his service in Congress. Oberstar introduced the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) which was enacted into law last year. WRDA included provisions to dredge, long-neglected, harbors and shipping channels across the Great Lakes.
Shallower navigation channels cause Great Lakes ore freighters to reduce their shipments by as much as 7500 tons light on each trip from Duluth to the eastern steel mills. “We have to make sure those ore boats go out with a full load to reduce Minnesota taconite costs,” said Oberstar. “If we don’t maintain our shipping infrastructure, we are giving an advantage to nations like Brazil and Russia that are competing with Minnesota taconite.”
WRDA also authorized $341 million to construct a second lock to accommodate modern ships at Sault Ste. Marie. Another $134 million is authorized to make other repairs and upgrades on the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The Keetac expansion will also embrace new technology that is more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. U.S. Steel will have to make that case to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to obtain the environmental permits the company will need to move forward. Oberstar says he is confident that effort will be successful. “I am ready to work with the gifted and skilled members of the Iron Range legislative delegation on the permitting process that lies ahead,” said Oberstar.