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Last Updated: 5/31/2018

Mineral Taxes Glossary

​Acid pellets — Taconite pellets comprised of iron, oxygen and silica held together by a binder such as bentonite (clay) or peridor (organic).

Agglomeration — The term describing the preparation and heat treatment used to prepare iron ore pellets or other iron ore products for shipment and use in a blast furnace.

Arms-length transaction — A sale of iron ore or pellets representing a true free market transaction when the buyer normally does not have an ownership or other special relationship with the seller.

Basic oxygen furnace (BOF) — A steel-making furnace invented in Austria.  It replaced open hearth furnaces in the 1960s.  It is currently the standard furnace used by the integrated steel producers in the United States.

Beneficiation — The process of improving the grade by removing impurities through concentrating or other preparation for smelting, such as drying, gravity, flotation or magnetic separation.  In taconite operations, this includes the first stage of magnetic separation and converting the concentrate into taconite pellets for use in making steel.

Concentrate — The finely ground iron-bearing particles that remain after separation from silica and other impurities.

Douglas J. Johnson Economic Protection Trust Fund (DJJ) — A portion of taconite production tax revenues is allocated to this fund with the intent to use the funds to diversify and stabilize the long-range economy of the Iron Range.

Direct reduced iron (DRI) — A relatively pure form of iron (usually 90 percent + Fe), which is produced by heating iron ore in a furnace or kiln with a reducing agent such as certain gases or coal.

Dry weight — The weight of iron ore or pellets excluding moisture.  For pellets, the dry weight is normally 1 to 2 percent less than the natural weight.

Electric Arc Furnace (EF or EAF) — A furnace in which an electric current is passed through the charge. These furnaces are much smaller than the conventional BOFs used by the integrated steel producers. 

Fe unit — Commonly referred to as an iron unit.  An iron unit is a term of measurement denoting one ton containing one percent iron.  Iron ore and taconite produced in the United States is measured in long tons (see definition).  One long ton of taconite containing 65 percent iron also contains 65 long ton iron units. Historically, this measurement was and is used for the selling price quoted in cents per iron unit.  One example is a currently published price of acid pellets FOB mine at 37.344 cents per dry gross ton iron unit or $.37344 per iron unit.

Fluxed pellets — Taconite pellets containing limestone or another basic flux additive. Fluxed pellets eliminate the need to add limestone in the blast furnace, improving productivity and quality.  Adding flux reduces the iron content of a pellet.   Fluxed pellets, as used in this guide, mean pellets containing two percent or more limestone or other flux.

Partially fluxed pellets — Fluxed pellets containing 1.99 percent or less limestone or other flux additive.

Gross Domestic Product Implicit Price Deflator (GDPIPD) —  An index maintained by the U.S. Department of Commerce measuring inflation in the overall economy.  The taconite production tax rate is adjusted annually based on the change in this index. 

Integrated steel producer — Term used to describe steel companies that produce steel by starting with raw iron ore, reducing it to molten iron in a blast furnace, and producing steel with a BOF, open hearth, or electric furnace.

Lake Erie value — The traditional and quoted price of iron ore from the earliest days of iron ore mining in Minnesota and Michigan.  This price per iron unit included delivery, mainly rail and lake transportation, from the mine to a Lake Erie port. This was the starting point for occupation tax since its 1921 beginning.  It was the standard method of pricing domestic iron ore and taconite for occupation tax until the mid-1980s (see Mine Value).

Long ton — The standard unit for weighing iron ore and taconite in the United States.  A long ton equals 2,240 pounds.

M.S. 298.225 — A Minnesota statute (law) guaranteeing the taconite production tax aids received by municipalities, counties, schools and the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation (IRRR).  The aid levels are adjusted according to a sliding scale based on production levels.

Metric ton — Standard unit for weighing iron ore and taconite in most areas of the world.  A metric ton equals 1,000 kilograms or 2,204.62 pounds.

Mine value — The value of iron or pellets at the mine.  This became the starting point for occupation tax in 1987.  This value per iron unit does not include any rail or lake transportation beyond the mine.

Mini mill — A small steel mill using an electric furnace that produces steel from scrap iron.

Natural ore — Iron ore that can be fed to a blast furnace with less complicated processing than taconite requires.  Natural ore typically contains 50 percent +Fe (iron) in its natural state.

Natural weight — The weight of iron ore or pellets including moisture.

Net Proceeds Tax — A tax equal to two percent of net proceeds from mining.  Net proceeds are determined by subtracting certain basic deductions such as labor, equipment, supplies and depreciation from gross proceeds or sales.

Non-equity sales — See Arms-length transaction.

Pellet chip — Broken pellets often cannot be sold as pellets and instead are sold at a reduced price for sinter plants and other uses. For occupation tax purposes, chips are defined as individual shipments or stockpiles containing at least 85 percent of pellet chips smaller than one-fourth inch.   Such chips cannot be shipped or commingled with regular pellets. For occupation tax purposes, pellet chips are valued at 75 percent of the value of the unbroken pellets.

Percentage depletion — A taxable income deduction in the form of an allowance representing a return on capital investment on a wasting asset subject to a gradual reduction in reserves.  This deduction applies to income derived from various mining or oil and gas properties  For iron ore, the deduction is a flat percentage of 15 percent of income from the iron ore only mined on a specific property. This deduction, however, cannot exceed 50 percent of taxable income from the property computed without the depletion deduction.

Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) — An association representing Iron Range cities, towns and schools receiving any funding from the taconite production tax.  An office is maintained in Mt. Iron, Minn.

Region 3 — Koochiching, Itasca, Aitkin, Carlton, St. Louis, Lake and Cook counties.

Royalty — A share of the product or profit reserved by the owner for permitting another to use the property.  A lease by which the owner or lessor grants to the lessee the privilege of exploring, mining and operating the land in consideration of the payment of a certain stipulated royalty on the mineral produced.

Short ton — Standard for weighing many commodities in the United States. It equals 2,000 pounds.

Steel Mill Products Index (SMPI) — A United States government index tracking the actual selling price of all steel products in the United States.  This index is published monthly by the U.S. Department of Labor.  It is part of the formula used to determine a mine value for occupation tax purposes each year.

Taconite — Ferruginous chert or ferruginous slate in the form of compact, siliceous rock in which the iron oxide is so finely disseminated that substantially all of the iron-bearing particles are smaller than 20 mesh. It is not merchantable in its natural state, and it cannot be made merchantable by simple methods of beneficiation involving only crushing, screening, jigging, washing and drying or any combination thereof.  (MS 298.001, subd. 4)

Tailing — Small rock particles containing little or no iron, which are separated during various stages of crushing, grinding, and concentration.  Most of the separation is done with magnetic separators.  Silica is the main mineral constituent of tailings.

Taxable tons — The three-year average of the current and prior two years production.  The taconite production tax is based on taxable tons.  The weight is on a dry basis without any flux additives.  For other iron bearing material subject to the taconite production tax, only the current year is used.