Minerals Coordinating Committee

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Taconite By-Products for Construction Aggregates

Initial MCC Project (2003-2006)

The Minerals Coordinating Committee (MCC) heard the need for a future supply of high quality aggregates for a number of areas of the state, including the Twin Cities. At the same time, MCC recognized that taconite mining was creating large volumes of waste materials, some of which were being used locally for pavements. Further, there are railroads that serve the taconite mines, and this could be investigated as an economical mode of transportation for these bulk materials. The MCC concluded that it was in the state's interest to sponsor research to determine if a taconite waste material could be transformed into a by-product, thereby conserving land and mineral resources.

The Minerals Coordinating Committee convened a meeting of a small group on October 1, 2003 to kick off the effort. The project outcome was a public-private partnership to determine if taconite aggregate would perform as a high-quality aggregate in specific highway pavements under MnDOT's evaluation. Two pavement cells, a 500-foot long asphalt pavement and a 200-foot long concrete pavement, were built at MnDOT's research facility in order to test the performance of the materials under MnDOT's procedures.

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Contacts for more information:
NRRI: Larry Zanko, 218-720-4274
MnDOT: Ben Worel, 651-366-5522
DNR/MCC: Dennis Martin, 651-259-5405

Initial MCC Project Sponsors

MCC served an important role of bringing together a diverse group of private businesses and state agencies to create and complete this valuable initial project. Listed below are those private businesses and state agencies that contributed time, money, and expertise to make this a successful first project.

  • Cliffs Erie's United Taconite donated 1,000 tons of a specific layer of taconite waste rock that became the primary test material for the pavements. They blasted it and hauled it out of the mine.

  • Ulland Brothers donated the coarse crushing operation near the mine site, and loaded the trucks to haul the material to the Twin Cities.

  • Edward Kraemer and Sons donated the final crushing, washing, sizing, and mixing for 500 short tons. They also loaded the trucks and paid for the hauling of this material from Burnsville to the Maple Grove asphalt plant.

  • Commercial Asphalt donated the making of the Superpave Hot Mix Asphalt material.

  • Bauerly companies donated the making of ready mix concrete using the taconite material.

  • MnDOT donated their expertise and funded the substantial costs to do the paving of "test pavement cells" at their MnRoad research facility near Rogers. Further, MnDOT performed subsequent evaluation of the performance of the pavements over a number of years.

  • Further public partnership funding and work was contributed by the MCC and three state agencies--Iron Range Resources (IRRRB), Natural Resources Research Institute, and the Department of Natural Resources, who all agreed to supplement the MCC funding in order to make this project happen.

Subsequent Projects by NRRI and MnDOT

NRRI's Taconite Aggregate Research Program (2006-2010)

Between 2006 and 2010 the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) completed a comprehensive taconite aggregate research and demonstration program with the help of 1.25 million dollars of federal funding from the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA). An additional 500,000 dollars was obtained from IRRRB (175,000), Minnesota Technology (46,000), Blandin Foundation (10,000), Minnesota Power (10,000), and NRRI (275,000). The objectives stated by NRRI were to:

  • Assess the suitability of Minnesota Iron Range taconite byproduct and co-product materials for road construction and repair applications

  • Identify new and economically viable uses for these materials

  • Support demonstration projects inside and outside Minnesota

NRRI Final Compendium Report (Large file: 250 mb) »

NRRI PowerPoint from MnROAD Research Conference »

NRRI's Present Work on Taconite Aggregates

NRRI continues to conduct applied and collaborative research to facilitate and expand the utilization of byproducts and co-products of Minnesota's taconite mining industry in a variety of transportation infrastructure applications and innovative specialty products and technologies.

MnDOT's Project Work Funded by NRRI
Use of Taconite Aggregates in Pavement Applications (2005-2010)

MnDOT's work on taconite aggregates began with a partnership with MCC and continued with NRRI in their taconite aggregate research and doemonstration program. MnDOT's project tasks were as followed:

  • MnROAD Performance Monitoring for Existing Taconite Test Cells

  • MnROAD Future Test Cell Construction Support for 2008

  • Pothole Taconite Patch Material Study

  • Laboratory Testing of Taconite Materials

MnDOT Report »

MnDOT Webpage »

Reports, Webpages, and News Media on Taconite Aggregate

Not all of these projects were funded by the Minerals Coordinating Committee though they are posted here to provide more information on the subject.

Date Title Agency Link
2011 NRRI PowerPoint at MnROAD Research Conference Research, Development, and Marketing of Taconite Aggregate NRRI PowerPoint
2010 NRRI Final Compendium Report to the Economic Development Administration NRRI/TSR-2010-01 Research, Development, and Marketing of Minnesota's Iron Range Aggregate Materials for Midwest and National Transportation Applications. Project # 06-79-05068 NRRI Report (Large File Size: 250 MB)
Present MnDOT Webpage on the Use of Taconite Aggregates in Pavement Applications MnDOT Webpage
2010 MnDOT Final Report #2010-24 Use of Taconite Aggregates in Pavement Applications MnDOT Report
2009 Minnesota Public Radio News Article Taconite Tailings find Second Life in Road Construction MPR Webpage
2007 NRRI/TR-2007/04 The Economics and Logistics of Transporting Taconite Mining and Processing Byproducts (Aggregate): Minnesota and Beyond: October 2007 Progress Report to the Minerals Coordinating Committee NRRI Report
2006 Final Report Investigation of the Design of Asphalt Paving Mixtures Using Minnesota Taconite Rock MnDOT and DNR Report
2006 NRRI-RI-2006-02 Historical Use of Taconite Byproducts as Construction Aggregate Materials in Minnesota: A Progress Report NRRI Report
2005 Final Report to the Minerals Coordinating Committee Evaluation of Mesabi Select Taconite Aggregate as MnDOT Class "A" Aggregate DNR Report
2004 DNR Presentation on Two New Pavement Cells at MnROAD Using Mesabi Select Aggregate: What and Why DNR PowerPoint
2004 Minnesota Local Road Research Project 2004 MnROAD Mesabi Select Hot Mix Asphalt (LRRB Inv. 819) Cell-31 Low Volume Road Construction Report MnDOT Report
2003 NRRI/TR-2003/44 Properties and Aggregate Potential of Coarse Taconite Tailings from Five Minnesota Taconite Operations NRRI Report

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