Traditionally, iron ore (the main ingredient of steel) has been processed into pellets which are shipped to steel mills for processing. Although various advances have improved this process, the basic concept has been the same for decades. However, the pellets are not compatible with modern electric arc furnaces which use high voltage electracity to melt raw materials into molten steel because they do not contain enough pure iron to melt properly. The new technology that is being developed by Mesabi Nugget creates nuggets that are about 95-99% pure iron ore which melts smoothly and consistently in electric arc furnaces. This new process allows high quality steel to be produced more cheaply right here in the United States.

The Mesabi Nugget plant, in the Mesabi Iron Ore Range in northeastern Minnesota, will be the first full-scale, high-grade iron nugget plant to be built. The raw materials for the process consist of various coals, fluxes and binders, as well as iron ore concentrate from Silver Bay, Minnesota. The coals and fluxes will be pulverized on-site, mixed with binders and iron ore, and then fed into a rotary hearth furnace where they will be converted into iron nuggets and slag. The iron nuggets will then be loaded onto railcars for shipment. The facility will have the capacity to produce approximately 600,000 tons of iron nuggets per year.

The construction project started in October, 2007 with the Rotary Hearth Furnace (RHF) building. This portion of the project was awarded to Oscar J. Boldt Construction located in Cloquet, Minnesota. The RHF building consisted of a 33' wide circular footing with an inside radius of approximately 82' with two ring walls that sit on top spaced approximately 16' apart.

Because of an environmental permit expiration date that was very close, the contractor was given just five days from the award of the project until they had to be on site, starting the foundation. Because of the unusually narrow time constraints, the contractor needed a forming system with a true radius very quickly. The Minneapolis-area Symons branch immediately shipped forming system components to form the wide footing. To build the ring walls that sit on top of the footing, the contractor chose Flex-Form® panels, which were shipped to the site already set at the required radius so that the project could continue moving along quickly.

Symons provided all of the forming and shoring systems for the RHF construction. Steel-Ply® was used to form the equipment ramp walls and other structures. ShorFast™ supported the elevated slab over the equipment ramp and the discharge chamber.

What started out as a small to medium project that consisted of only the RHF building soon became a large project with five additional support buildings, with more to be released as the project progresses.

Symons remains the only concrete form provider for this project. If pelletizing technology takes off as expected, up to four additional plants are scheduled for construction in the Mesabi Iron Ore Range, and Symons is ready to provide all the formwork again and again!

Flex-Form® System


Steel-Ply® Concrete Forming System


ShorFast™ Shoring System