Pellet production resumes after fire at Empire Mine

PALMER – Cliffs Natural Resources officials said iron ore pellet production had resumed today at the Empire Mine in Palmer.

Pellet production was shut down after a Dec. 2 fire, which damaged a crushed limestone conveyor feeding system. Investigators – including Cliffs officials, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and the United Steelworkers – are still working to determine the cause of the blaze.

In a news release, Cliffs officials said the limestone feeding system included mining equipment and conveyors that feed crushed limestone into the Empire Mine’s concentrator plant. The limestone is added during the pellet making process. Because of the damage caused by the fire, a front end loader is instead being used to bring limestone into the plant.

Operations are continuing as scheduled at Cliff’s nearby Tilden Mine in National Mine, which was not affected by the fire.

However, an investigation is continuing there into the death of Gary Hytinen, 61, of Ishpeming, a worker who apparently fell from a railcar at the Tilden Mine last Friday afternoon. Visitation and funeral services will be held Thursday for Hytinen at the Bjork and Zhulkie Funeral Home in Ishpeming.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.