Nine dust emission events impacted Iron Range residents

Contact: Anne Perry Moore, 218-302-6605

Duluth, Minn. ― A Keewatin, Minn. taconite facility’s newly-mandated air quality control plan is expected to prevent future dust emissions on the Iron Range. The company was required to create this plan after violating state air rules nine times during a 27-month time period.

U.S. Steel Corporation has agreed to pay a $49,500 penalty to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for nine state air quality violations adjacent to its taconite facility near Keewatin. The company is also required to submit an enhanced dust control, mitigation and response plan to the MPCA within 90 days.

The agency determined the Keetac taconite facility began to periodically violate Minnesota’s fugitive, or airborne, dust rule in early December 2012. Nine events occurred between that date and Feb. 4, 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.

Keetac’s taconite production facility includes a basin where the company deposits tailings from taconite pellet production. During periods of high winds, drought or sometimes freeze/thaw conditions, tailings dust can become airborne and deposited beyond the facility’s property.

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 Air permits webpage.