Founded in 2006, privately-held Magnetation Inc. was created with the intention of utilizing magnetic separation technology to capture iron ore particles left over from previous mining operations that existed on the iron range dating back to the 1890s. Owners Al Fritz and Rod Hunt focused the company’s early efforts on research and development of a beneficiation process centered on the Ferrous Wheel®, a technology Al Fritz invented in the 1970s that used permanent magnets to separate iron ore from waste materials and produce an upgraded iron ore concentrate.
In early 2008, Larry Lehtinen became principal owner, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Magnetation Inc. and began transforming the company from its developmental stage into commercial production of iron ore concentrate. In July 2008 Magnetation broke ground on its Plant One located near Keewatin, MN and within nine months was producing and shipping concentrate to northern Minnesota customers. While some of the fundamental concepts of the Ferrous Wheel® were effective, operational and mechanical improvements to the technology were necessary to realize the company’s growth strategy. In 2009 Magnetation engineers designed the Rev3™ Separator, an innovative technology built for high volume throughput and operational uptime. In April 2010 the Ferrous Wheel® technology was removed and the Rev3™ Separator was commissioned and immediately proved to be a solution to processing iron ore tailings.
In 2011, Magnetation took major strides in production expansion and commercial development that would fuel the rapid growth the company has experienced to date. In July 2011 the company began construction on Plant Two, its 1.1 million mt per year facility located near Bovey, MN. In August 2011 Magnetation executed a joint venture with Steel Dynamics to construct a 1.0 million mt per year plant near Chisholm, MN utilizing Magnetation technology. In October 2011 the company announced its joint venture with AK Steel to form Magnetation LLC and further expand Magnetation’s concentrate production capacity in northern Minnesota and construct a 3.0 million mt per year pellet plant facility. Finally, in November 2011 the company completed construction on its Jessie Load-Out rail terminal near Grand Rapids, MN and celebrated its first commercial shipment to AHMSA.
Magnetation continued its project execution in 2012 with first concentrate production at its Plant Two in May, just ten months after breaking ground and eight months after the first concrete pour. In November 2012, Magnetation announced it would be constructing its 3.0 million mt per year pellet plant in Reynolds, IN to supply AK Steel’s blast furnace operations in Middletown, OH and Ashland, KY.
In 2013, Magnetation completed $375 million in financing to construct the pellet plant in Indiana and an additional iron ore concentrate plant, Plant Four, in Minnesota. In June the company marked the official start of construction on its pellet plant with the first concrete pour, and began site preparation in late 2013 for its Plant Four facility to be constructed near Grand Rapids, MN and commence operations in 2015.
In 2014 Magnetation successfully completed additional financing of $100 million to accelerate the pellet plant and Plant Four construction projects. In September 2014 the pellet plant successfully produced its first pellets and began shipments to partner and customer AK Steel, and in December 2014 Plant Four successfully produced its first concentrate. These milestones marked the completion of a two-year growth initiative which helped grow Magnetation into a 3.0 million tonne per year producer of high quality iron ore.
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