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First Minnesota taconite of season hits steel mill

It took 11 days to make the distance usually covered in about 30 hours, but the first Minnesota taconite iron ore has reached its steel mill destination in Indiana.

The ore boats Cason J. Calloway and John G. Munson arrived at the U.S. Steel Gary Works on Tuesday, and just in time.

Opertions at the Gary Works had been curetailed in recent days because it had run low on ore to make steel with, said Courtney Boone, U.S. Steel spokeswoman.

The steel mill partially reopened Sunday after U.S. Steel managed to transfer pellets from its Great Lakes Works near Detroit on a freighter. Still, Boone said, the Gary mill “continues to run at a reduced capacity’’ because of the lack of raw material.

The Munson and Calloway left Duluth on March 23 for Two Harbors, where they picked up taconite. But thick, stubborn ice on Lake Superior damaged one of their escort ships and stalled their trip down the lakes. The ore boats were forced to sit for several days until the Coast Guard icebreaker Mackinaw caught up from other duties to escort them to Gary.

The Callaway was the first commercial ship through the Soo Locks on Friday, 11 days after the locks officially opened, with many other freighters unable to make progress in what has been described as among the most difficult Great Lakes openings ever due to the ice.

By Mike Creger and John Myers

Originally published in the Duluth News Tribune

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