REYNOLDS — The Mexican firm that bought the closed iron ore plant outside Reynolds is apparently preparing to dismantle it and move it to Mexico.
White County Commissioner Dave Diener confirmed that Altos Hornos de Mexico, a Mexico-based steel manufacturer, received permission from the District of Minnesota United State Bankruptcy Court to buy the plant.
“Everything other than the ground” goes to Altos Hornos for the $15 million it paid for the plant, he said.
There’s been no official word to county representatives whether the plant will go, but Altos Hornos didn’t buy the ground, said County Commissioner John Heimlich.
“That was our fear. We haven’t heard anything,” Heimlich said.
He added that nothing has been taken out yet, although the county is watching the site and vehicles have been on it.
Those may be security, he said.
Altos Hornos first attempted to buy the building last fall.
However, the Oct. 24 finalization was delayed into November because of objections made by entities to which ERP Iron Ore owed money.
Diener said White County was one of the entities that contested the plant’s sale on the basis of the definitions of real versus personal property.
White County has financial interests in back taxes owed by the plant.
In April, ERP’s owner Tom Clarke missed a mandatory tax payment on the Reynolds plant, the Herald Journal reported.
He owed White County $517,646 for real property taxes and $5.6 million for personal property taxes.
The Minnesota-based ERP purchased the plant in January 2017 from the original builder, Magnetation, and was working with White County to assume the economic agreements the county had with Magnetation.
The 400,000-square-foot facility cost Magnetation LLC $350 million to build in 2013 and was later bought by ERP Iron Ore, which went into bankruptcy in April.
The plant has been shut down since September 2016, and ERP never reopened it because the market for the iron ore pellets it produced at the Reynolds plant declined, and it was no longer cost effective to produce them.
ERP began legal proceedings to sell its assets on Oct. 16.
Heimlich had said last fall that the hope was always for someone to buy the plant and reopen it.
Reynolds Town Council President Rick Bushman said he’d only heard the rumors of Altos Hornos taking the plant away but nothing certain.
He also doesn’t know whether having an empty industrial site or the empty building just outside town limits would’ve been better for the town.
“I would say let’s start over with an empty field,” he said.
Area Plan Executive Director Joe Rogers said that Altos Hornos won’t need a permit to remove the building, so he has no confirmation that it would happen or when it could begin.