Fourteen dust emission events impacted Iron Range residents

Contact: Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

Duluth, Minn. ― The air quality near Forbes, Minnesota should improve, thanks to dust control measures to be implemented at an Iron Range taconite facility. Area residents’ homes have been affected by dust from the facility more than a dozen times during a 31-month timeframe.

United Taconite LLC (Utac) has agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for alleged state air quality violations adjacent to its Fairlane plant taconite facility near Forbes. The company is also required to update its dust control plan, determine most effective actions to address future dust releases and evaluate the applicability of new dust control technologies.

The agency determined the Utac-Fairlane facility began to periodically violate Minnesota’s fugitive, or airborne, dust rule in early January 2013. Thirteen additional events occurred between that date and July 30, 2015. The rule requires that facilities take steps to control avoidable amounts of particulate matter (dust emissions) from sources such as mining, roads, ore handling and stockpiles from becoming airborne.

Utac’s Fairlane taconite production facility includes a tailings basin where the company deposits tailings from taconite pellet production. These tailings can become airborne and be deposited around the tailings basin as fugitive dust.

The stipulation agreement is one tool that the MPCA uses to achieve compliance with environmental laws.  When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was a first time or repeat violation and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities.  The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.

For more information, go to the MPCA's Enforcement webpage.