By Ernie Over, managing editor, County10.com
(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commissioners received an update from the Wyoming Business Council Tuesday on a story first reported on County10.com about the future reopening of the Atlantic City Iron Ore Mine on South Pass.
Regional WBC Director Roger Bower of Riverton told the commissioners that his organization engages consultants on a regular basis on a variety of issues, looking for businesses or industries to expand or locate in the state. He said one consultant was retained to look at the state’s iron ore reserves several years ago, due to the world wide demand for steel.
An initial report on the consultant’s findings was revealed at the Lander LEADER Corp. breakfast in Lander earlier this month by WBC CEO Robert Jensen.
“Atlantic City, by far, has the largest iron ore reserves in the state, although it’s not the only source,” Bower said. “Underwater in the former open pit mine, it is estimated that some 200 million tons of ore is still there, which would result in some 6o to 66 million tons of iron.” Bower said the WBC looks at the former mine as one of the state’s assets, and said it behooved the WBC to investigate if a restart of the mine there was feasible.
The former mine was operated by U.S. Steel Corporation with the iron ore pellets produced here shipped to the firm’s steel mill in Provo, Utah. The mine closed in the early 1980s. Simplot Corporation now owns the mining lease there.
“I’d give it a 5 to 10 percent chance of occurring,” he said. “But that is what we do. We look for opportunities.”
Commissioner Pat Hickerson asked about the economic viability of such a mine. Bower said the United States currently produces about 115 million tone of steel each year, but consumes slightly more than that. “The consultant thinks there would be demand, and given the current world economic situation, major manufacturers around the globe are still looking to the United States for resource development.”
Hickerson, and the other commissioners, asked Bower to keep them in the loop on the project as the tentative plans move forward. “If there is a role for the county, we’d be interested in helping such a large economic driver,” he said, “especially for Lander.”
Chairman Doug Thompson said the county has many contacts at its disposal to help if the project moves to a permitting process. “Maybe we can help shepherd this through.”
Bower said he would keep the commission informed of any future developments with the site.