140,000 gallons of process water spill at Northshore Mining – Duluth News Tribune

SILVER BAY — A pipe at Cleveland-Cliffs’ Northshore Mining’s taconite plant ruptured Wednesday, releasing approximately 140,000 gallons of process water until it was shut down 11 minutes later.

According to a spill incident report submitted to the state by a Northshore employee, the spill occurred between 2:41 p.m. and 2:52 p.m. Wednesday and emerged from an 8- to 10-foot gash in a metal pipe. The employee said the water reached Lake Superior.

“The water is recycled water with some fluoride and miscellaneous substances but nothing of particular concern or note,” the incident report said. Additional details were not provided.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which sent a copy of the incident report, said it is aware of the spill.

“The MPCA is currently evaluating the situation to determine impacts,” spokesperson Michael Rafferty said. “This is an ongoing investigation.”

Cliffs spokesperson Patricia Persico told the News Tribune that a “process water pipeline undergoing routine maintenance developed a leak upon being returned to service and (the) pipeline was immediately shut down.

“We are working with MPCA to determine if any impacts to the environment occurred,” she said. “There was no impact on Northshore plant operations.”

In October 2000, a pipeline carrying taconite tailings — fine pieces of waste rock left over after the iron is extracted from the ore — ruptured, sending 14,000 tons of tailings into the Beaver River as the breach went undetected for 19 hours.

This story was updated at 6:44 p.m. April 18 with a quote from Cliffs spokesperson Patricia Persico. It was originally posted at 6:22 p.m. April 18.

Jimmy Lovrien covers environment-related issues, including mining, energy and climate, for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.

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