Northshore Mining EAW

Take Action!

Protect Minnesota's water resources!

Ask for an EIS at the Northshore Mine expansion that will unearth sulfide minerals.



Northshore Mine (Peter Mitchell Mine) 

Comment on Northshore Mining’s proposed pit expansion that will unearth sulfide minerals at their taconite mine!


• Request that a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be conducted on the proposed expansion, as the project has the potential for significant environmental effects.


• Alternatives are not addressed - In order to protect the environment, avoiding mining the sulfide ore mineralization must be analyzed.



Sulfide ore mining  is highly  controversial because of the threat it poses to clean water and healthy ecosystems. Sulfide ores contain heavy metals bonded to sulfur, which form sulfide minerals. When sulfides are exposed to air and water, a chemical reaction generates sulfuric acid that seeps into the surrounding environment, causing the release of metals which are toxic to fish and aquatic life.

A situation similar to the sulfide mineralization encountered at the Northshore taconite mine, exists at the Dunka Mine pit.  At Dunka, a taconite ore body was under a layer of sulfide mineralization. The removal  and stockpiling of the sulfide ores there has already caused significant and long standing environmental harm.   The Dunka Pit sulfide-bearing waste rock continues to leach toxic metals into the environment after fifty years. The Dunka Pit is the subject of a Clean Water Action by The Center for Biological Diversity, Save Lake Superior Association, and the Indigenous Environmental Network. In 2010 the groups filed formal notice that they intend to file suit against mining company Cliffs Erie to stop the ongoing pollution of waters at the Dunka mine site near Birch Lake/ Kawishiwi River.


Dunka Pit Acid Mine Drainage

Dunka Mine Pit (Left) Acid Mine Drainage in a stream (Right)


Comment on Northshore Mining EAW

Comments on the EAW must be received by Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.


NorthShore Mining Mine Progression EAW

Summary:  NorthShore Mining (NSM) plans to expand its Peter Mitchell pit located near Babbitt by 108 acres.
In doing so, NSM will encounter a layer of acid-generating Type II Virginia Formation (VF) sulfide waste rock, which has a sulfur content between .2% and 1.0%.

NSM plans to create a 153 acre stockpile of the Type II VF rock.  Leachate would be collected in pit sumps and discharged into a wetland that flows in Langley Creek, the Dunka River, and Dunka Bay of Birch Lake.  Dunka Mine Pit sulfide-bearing waste rock continues to leach after 50 years.

After closure, the stockpile will remain exposed above the water level and will trickle into the pit lake.  An area of VF rock in the vertical pit wall will also be left exposed.


To Comment:

Send comments: Written and signed comments on the EAW must be received by Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.

Send to "Northshore EAW" must be included in the subject line.  Include your name and mailing address so that you can be added to the mailing list.



The EAW fails to address some key issues.  An Environmental Impact  Statement (EIS) needs to be prepared to address the following issues:

•     Alternatives are not addressed - Avoiding areas requiring the removal of sulfide minerals must be considered as an alternative.
•     Sulfate discharge would go up to 157 mg/l.  According to recent science, wild rice will not  thrive in waters with over 10 mg/l.  Sulfate discharge must be calculated as part of a cumulative effect.
•     The Peter Mitchell Pit straddles the Laurentian Divide.  After closure, all pit discharges will be diverted to the Rainy River basin (Birch Lake/ Kawishiwi River), which will dry up the Partridge River and impact the St. Louis River/ Lake Superior watershed.  Removal of six thousand acres from the Lake Superior basin amounts to a diversion that must be addressed under the Great Lakes Basin Compact.
•     Anti-degradation requirements must be applied for pollutants that have no discharge limits.
•     Cumulative impacts, connected actions, and future stages of the project must be considered.
•     Hydrological changes due to pit expansion are ignored.
•     This project will be the first time that Type II sulfide materials will be mined and stockpiled.  Seepage from the Type II stockpile would not be collected or monitored.  Monitoring will only take place at the sump, after dilution. With today’s environmental concerns and available technologies, this is simply not appropriate.
•     Northshore Mine has not provided a “contingency” plan for Type III VF sulfide material in case Type III (high sulfide) materials are encountered.
•     NSM estimates post-closure costs for a 30 year time period, even though Acid Mine Drainage and toxic metal leaching would persist for hundreds/thousands of years. 
•     No cumulative impacts are mentioned regarding wetland destruction or alteration of hydrology.  Loss of wetland quality must be evaluated. Detrimental effects to Langley Creek headwaters not adequately addressed in the EAW
•     No impacts to wildlife or waterfowl are included.
•     Potential for drainage into ground water below the stockpile inadequately addressed
•     Exposed areas of high sulfide rock in the pit walls need s further analysis
•     Future water quality of the pit, and  stockpile cover durability into the thousands of years. 
•     Financial assurance of $26 million does not seem adequate if waste water treatment will someday be necessary from pit overflow.
•     We believe a more thorough investigation and analysis of the hydrology and geochemistry of the mine pit and the surface that will be left exposed is necessary before any conclusions can be reached about potential water quality.
•     An antidegradation analysis should be done before actions begin that may result in an increased loading of any toxic pollutant to surface water.
•     The current mine plan has the potential to result in significant effects on wetlands and other groundwater-dependent resources.
•     Biwabik Iron Formation(BIF) rock will be crushed and the potential for exposure to harmful asbestos-like mineral fibers needs to be addressed.
•     There is no contingency plan to deal with Type II Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and leaching of accompanying sulfide metals.
•     Financial assurance is inadequate - active wastewater treatment may be required at the mine site for hundreds to thousands of years, yet there is no discussion of this scenario.

•   MILEPOST 7 TAILINGS BASIN Stability - An EIS is needed to analyze whether Milepost 7 can handle the projected increase in tailings. The letter submitted by Northshore Mining on June 13, 2013 projects an annual and total projected tonnage of tailings, but does not analyze the current stability and strength of the tailings basin, nor take into account the ability of the basin to withstand high precipitation weather events. The Milepost 7 tailings basin must be fully evaluated as part of an EIS process.

Expansion at the Peter Mitchell pit concerns both the pit and the tailings basin, thus greatly impacting the watersheds of both Lake Superior and the Rainy River.  



For more information go to the MDNR website linked here:


DNR seeks comments on environmental review for Northshore Mining Co. mine expansion

(Released September 15, 2014)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is accepting public comments during a 30-day public review period from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 on an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) for Northshore Mining Co.’s mine expansion near Babbitt, in northeastern Minnesota.

The company proposes to extend the boundary of its open pit mine on the southeast side to access taconite ore. The review document examines environmental impacts and mitigation efforts.

In this 108-acre expansion area, the taconite ore is overlain by Virginia Formation rock — sulfur-bearing rock that will be mined and stockpiled to access the ore. Northshore will permanently stockpile Virginia Formation rock from the expansion onsite following a plan that minimizes contact of groundwater and runoff with stockpiled rock.

Northshore EAW

Public notice of the availability of this EAW is in the September 15, 2014 EQB Monitor.  A 30-day public review and comment period is open from September 15, 2014 through October 15, 2014, until 4:30 PM.

The proposed project:

Northshore Mining Company proposes to progress the Ultimate Pit Limit within its Permit to Mine at its Peter Mitchell Mine to access additional economic taconite ore, consistent with Northshore's long-term development plan for the mine. In this 108 acre progression, the taconite ore is overlain by Type II Virginia Formation (VF) rock that will be mined and stockpiled to access the ore. Northshore will permanently stockpile Type II VF rock from the progression on-site following a stockpile plan that minimizes contact of groundwater and runoff with stockpiled rock.


To Comment:

Send comments: Written and signed comments on the EAW must be received by Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.


By mail:
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Division of Ecological and Water Resources, Box 25
Attn:  Ronald Wieland
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN   55155-4025


Send to "Northshore EAW" must be included in the subject line.  Include your name and mailing address so that you can be added to the mailing list.

By fax:
Submit signed comment letters by fax to (651) 296-1811.



Please call (651) 259-5157. or email Ronald Wieland at







Background Information


* Save Our Sky Blue Waters with Save Lake Superior Association and the Center For Biological Diversity made substantive comments and petitioned the MDNR for a EAW on the Northshore Mine pit expansion, additional info below.


DNR to review proposed taconite mine expansion in northeast Minn.

Minnesota Public Radio · Environment Dan Kraker · DULUTH, Minn. · Oct 16, 2013

State officials will review a proposed taconite mine expansion in northeast Minnesota for reasons typically associated with copper nickel mines.

Northshore Mining wants to expand its Peter Mitchell Mine south of Babbitt, Minn. Environmental groups, arguing the expansion could cause acid mine drainage, petitioned the Department of Natural Resources for an environmental assessment.

"It's the same problem that we're facing with the copper nickel mines, and the same potential for water quality impacts," said Jane Reyer with Duluth-based Save our Sky Blue Waters. "I just think we need to look at it regardless of what type of mine it's coming from."

After the petition was filed, Northshore Mining asked the DNR for an environmental review. The company has a conservative plan to expand the mine, said Sandy Karnowsky, spokeswoman for Northshore Mining owner Cliffs Natural Resources.
The Peter Mitchell Mine is located about one mile from the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine site.


Found here:




Northshore mine expansion to get review

An expansion of Northshore Mining’s Peter Mitchell taconite iron ore mine near Babbitt is heading toward an environmental assessment by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

By: John Myers, Associated Press   Published October 16, 2013

An expansion of Northshore Mining’s Peter Mitchell taconite iron ore mine near Babbitt is heading toward an environmental assessment by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The Duluth-based environmental group Save Our Sky Blue Waters had petitioned state regulators to conduct an Environmental Assessment Worksheet on the project, saying the expansion could be digging taconite iron ore out of a new area with rock that has a higher sulfide content, which the groups said could lead to acid mine drainage off the site.

But in an Oct. 8 letter to the state Environmental Quality Board, the Minnesota DNRdeemed the environmental group’s request moot because Cliffs Natural Resources, Northshore’s owner, in the meantime had requested that the DNR conduct a “discretionary EAW’’ on the expansion.

The DNR is obliged by state rules to conduct the review if the company proposing the project asks for it.
Sandy Karnowski, a spokeswoman for Cliffs, said the company wanted to work with the DNR on conservative progress for the operation.

“Northshore is seeking a permit amendment for its mine progression southward to mine reserves that are in our Life of Mine reserve. Northshore Mining has worked with the Department of Natural Resources to develop a conservative mine plan for that progression. In response to stakeholder input, Northshore/Cliffs has decided to conduct a discretionary Environmental Assessment Worksheet with the DNR to address any questions about the permit amendment.”

The problem of acid mine runoff has been central in the debate over Minnesota’s potential entry into copper mining, such as the proposed PolyMet project just a few miles from the Northshore mine. But it’s unusual — and possibly the first time — that the sulfide level of iron-ore bearing rock is being raised in an official environmental review of an iron ore mine.

“It’s not necessarily the first time a taconite mine has dealt with the potential for acid mine drainage, but it’s the first environmental review that I’m aware of to address the problem,’’ said Kathryn Hoffman, an attorney for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “We talk about sulfide (copper) mining versus taconite mining, but sometimes the line between the two is gray. Both, for instance, have significant problems with sulfate discharges.”

According to the DNR letter, the project would expand the existing open pit mine by 108 acres.


Duluth News Tribune article here:




* The information below is from an earlier action on the Northshore Mine Expansion found HERE on our site


Additional Points you might want to make in your comments:

•             Ask that the MDNR do an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Amendment to Permit to Mine for the Northshore Mining Company, adding 108.33 acres to its Ultimate Pit Limit and disturbing sulfide-bearing rock.

•             Northshore Mining plans to move 30 million tons of Virginia Formation rock. It is unclear how much of this is higher than 0.2% sulfide, but the diagrams indicate that it is more than half. For perspective, PolyMet plans to move 50 million tons of rock with this level of sulfides over the life of its mine. In other words, the Northshore Mining proposal is not insignificant. Yet there has been virtually no public information or process around it, and no environmental review documents.

•             The timeframes for Acid Mine Drainage stretch over hundreds or thousands of years; the company does not appear to have done any analysis as to what the potential is for impacts to water over that range of time.

•             The supporting materials assume that all drainage will be collected in the pit dewatering sump; there appears to be no analysis of the potential for drainage into the ground and groundwater below the stockpile.

•             It appears that the pit wall will contain exposed areas of high-sulfide rock. How does the company plan to manage AMD from the pit wall?

•             Stockpile covers have not proven sufficient to stop AMD at other mines. The timeframes we are talking about are hundreds or thousands of years long. The length of time that these covers will last is unknown. Furthermore, there is bound to be at least some leakage through the cover.

•             What is the predicted water quality of the pit lake in 1,000 years?

•             Although we appreciate the effort to provide financial assurance (proposed at about $26 million), there is a good possibility that active wastewater treatment will someday be needed for the outflow from this pit. Financial assurance should be enough to provide for that contingency.



Northshore Mining Pit Expansion Diagram

Click Here for Larger Image


Additional Background Information


Northshore Mining Company
Ultimate Pit Limit – Permit to Mine – December 2010
(Re-submitted April 12, 2013)

Linked Here


* * * * *


Date: April 23, 2013 Made by: Jason Obermeyer, P.E.
Project No.: 083-81505 Checked by: Craig Schuettpelz, P.E.
Subject: Financial Assurance Cost Estimate Reviewed by: Brent Bronson, P.E.
Project Short Title: Cliffs Natural Resources

Linked Here


* * * * *


Northshore Mining Pit Expansion LEGAL ADVERTISEMENT

Linked Here

Excerpted below:


Pursuant to the Taconite and Iron Ore Mineland Reclamation Rules (Chapter 6130),notice is hereby given that Northshore Mining Company, P.O. Box 207, Babbitt, MN has applied for an Amendment to the Permit to Mine in St. Louis County, near the City of Babbitt as shown on the map below. The proposed mine progression areas occupy 108.33 acres in Sections 19, 20 and 30 in Township 60 North, Range 12 West.

The proposed mine progression will progress the Main Pit boundary to the south. Much of the Iron Ore in this progression area is overlain by Virginia Formation rock, which will be stockpiled in-pit and covered with an engineered stockpile cover. Progression of the amendment area is scheduled to start in 2013 and meet Northshore’s mining requirements through 2016 for the Main Pit.

The surface and mineral ownerships of the mining areas are:
Surface: Northshore Mining Company
Mineral: Mesabi Trust

The complete application is on file at the Northshore Mining Company facility office in Babbitt or at the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Lands and Minerals offices in Hibbing and St. Paul.

Any person owning property which will be affected by the proposed operations or any federal, state, or local government agencies having responsibilities affected by the proposed operations may file written objections to this proposed amendment. Written objections must be sent to the Commissioner of Natural Resources, c/o Division of Lands and Minerals, 1525 Third Avenue East, Hibbing, MN 55746 before July _____, 2013.


* * * * *


Northshore Mining Pit Expansion letter regarding use of Mile Post 7 Tailings Basin to accommodate the additional tailings produced from the ore uncovered from the movement of the Virginia Formation Type rock.

Linked Here

June 13, 2013
Ms. Julie Jordan
Mineland Reclamation Specialist, Principal
DNR-Lands and Minerals
1525 Third Ave. E.
Hibbing, MN 55746


Dear Ms Jordan,
After reviewing the basin five year operating plan and historical data, the Mile Post 7 tailings basis can accommodate the additional tailings produced from the ore uncovered from the movement of the Virginia Formation Type II.

The ultimate elevation of the basin is 1315’. 3’ of aggregate cover at the beaches needs to occur at closure so fine tailings can be placed to 1312’. The projected level at year end is 1215’, currently at 1213.6’. According to the production schedule within the 2013 reserve base analysis using an annual rate of 5.8 MT product, the current Permit to Mine tonnage of 680MT plus the additional 70MT (750MT total) will be exhausted in the year 2057 or 44 years.

The allowable rate of rise at the basin is 2.2’/yr. Therefore the Mile Post 7 basin has sufficient capacity to hold the tailings form the additional 70 MT of ore from the Permit to Mine amendment request.
If you have any further question or comment, please feel free to contact me.


Daniel R. Wolf, P.E.
Senior Section Manager – Mine Engineering
Northshore Mining Company
PO Box 207
Babbitt, MN 55706
Phone: 218 827-2026 Cell: 218 290-1700




Mile Post 7


Click Here for Larger Image of Mile Post 7 located near Lake Superior