Minnesota steel company misses deadline to repay state $66M

Published 9:34 am Thursday, July 7, 2016

ST. PAUL — A Minnesota steel company has missed a deadline to repay the state $66 million in infrastructure costs related to the company’s now stalled $1.8 billion taconite project in Nashwauk.

The Star Tribune reports that Essar Steel Minnesota stands to lose its state mineral leases due to the missed July 1 deadline. The company is asking for a nine-month extension for the leases that expired last week.

If the state does not grant the extension, the leases could go to a competitor.

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Essar has not fully paid at least 10 contractors whose crews worked on the Nashwauk project, which remains half built. The project broke ground in 2008 and was supposed to have been completed by 2014. The timeline was extended to fall 2015 after the project was scaled down from a full taconite and steelmaking plant to an iron-ore pelletizing plant.

After another missed deadline, the company was asked to repay the $66 million the state spent on building power plants and other infrastructure for the project.

State Rep. Tom Anzel, who chairs the Legislature’s Iron Range delegation, said the governor is engaged in negotiations with the company.

“Essar is doing all sorts of contortions to buy some time,” Anzel said. “Without having the leases in their hands, their opportunity to be a willing seller of this project is diminished, and their ability to attract real new investments is (nil).”

Essar did not return the newspaper’s requests for comment. Gov. Mark Dayton’s spokesman says the governor could issue a statement this week.