Taconite

From Academic Kids

Taconite is an iron-bearing, high-silica, flint-like rock. It is a Precambrian sedimentary rock referred to as a banded iron formation due to the typical alternating iron-rich layers and shale or chert layers. The very finely dispersed iron content, present as magnetite, is generally 25 to 30%. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, iron ore was of such high quality that taconite was considered an uneconomic waste product. After World War II, most of the high grade ore in the United States had been mined out, and so taconite was turned to as a new source of iron. To process taconite, the ore is ground into a fine powder, the iron is separated from the waste rock by using strong magnets, and then the powdered iron concentrate is combined with bentonite clay and limestone as a flux and rolled into pellets about one centimeter in diameter. The pellets are heated to very high temperatures to oxidize the magnetite (Fe3O4) to hematite (Fe2O3) for further processing.

The Mesabi Iron Range region of the American state of Minnesota is a major production area. The taconite iron concentrate is shipped through Two Harbors and the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, both on Lake Superior. The ore is generally shipped to other locations on the Great Lakes. Many steelmaking centers are located near Lake Erie. Originally the ore was unloaded by hand; from about 1900 through 1992, great machines called Hulett ore unloaders performed the task. Self-unloading ships made the Huletts obsolete.

References

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