Mercury and Ore Processing

Mercury is a hazardous air pollutant (HAP) that can cause damage to the brain, nervous system, and developing fetuses. Mercury is emitted during taconite ore processing, which separates and concentrates iron ore from taconite into taconite pellets. Taconite pellets are used to make steel, iron and cement. 

Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to establish emission standards for industrial sources that produce HAPs, including mercury. Despite this obligation, in July 2020, the EPA finalized a rule that determined that it was not necessary to develop emissions standards to control mercury emissions from taconite ore processing facilities. 

In September 2020, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a petition for review challenging EPA’s July 2020 rule.  The attorneys general are seeking to ensure that the agency issues emissions standards for mercury from taconite ore processing facilities.