Iron and Minerals of the Future Initiative

About Strategic Initiatives

To meet our mission of delivering integrated research solutions, NRRI is focused on three strategic initiatives that address the challenges of Minnesota’s resource-based economy. These initiatives are bold and long-term efforts to create the economy of the future by incorporating diverse expertise across NRRI, the University system and with our partners.

Initiative Overview

NRRI's Iron and Minerals of the Future initiative focuses research to assist Minnesota’s evolving mineral industries to develop a robust and competitive portfolio of value-add iron and other mineral products. This requires new practices and technologies that increase efficiencies, reduce energy and water consumption and prevent environmental contamination.


After some 140 years of mining, the iron ore on the Mesabi Range is getting deeper and more expensive to mine. At the same time, energy costs are going up and markets are changing, along with concerns about environmental impacts. NRRI is helping Minnesota’s Iron Range prepare for changing mining practices and processes to meet the demands of changing ore bodies and develop a broader, iron-based product portfolio. 


This Initiative is a collaborative effort to develop and introduce a portfolio of practices, processes, iron and non-ferrous products that require less energy and water while also reducing effluents. The goal is to provide research and development into areas that iron ore mining companies don’t have the resources to fully investigate and to reduce their risk in making changes.

Sample Projects

  • Value-added byproduct use for road maintenance products
  • Evaluate uses for iron mining waste piles
  • New processing technologies for ore mixes of magnetite, goethite and hematite
  • New processes for higher value Direct Reduced Grade (DRG) and Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) products for Electric Arc Furnace steel production
  • Technical assistance for developing iron ore potential in long-term battery storage


  • Minnesota’s Taconite Industries
  • Supporting Industries
  • Natural Resources Agency Partners
  • Tribal Nations
  • Iron Range Communities

Iron and Minerals of the Future Projects

Online mapping tools and data for natural resource planning, management, and research in Minnesota.

Developing a durable road repair patch utilizing taconite tailings, the waste rock left over from the iron ore mines on Minnesota's Iron Range.

Recent News

Ariel view of collection of buildings, lake in background.

Future focus on a new building at NRRI's Coleraine site will provide space to keep pace with research.

NRRI building front with flag

Continual updating of NRRI’s Duluth facility helps solid foundation stands test of time.

Front entrance to NRRI Duluth building

Public invited Sept. 16 to learn about integrated research aimed at today’s challenges

A man in safety vest and hard hat sprays water on round iron balls in large spinning equipment.

NRRI builds partnerships to develop carbon reduction strategies for Minnesota’s iron producers.