IRRRB sees profit on mining exploration loan

A 2009 loan to a mining exploration company has turned a profit for the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

Board Chair Tony Sertich says a $1.25 million loan to Franconia Minerals has returned almost $270,000 in cash and stock. The deal includes shares of Duluth Metals which recently acquired Franconia.

Sertich said it's money the agency can use for new investments.

"We're funded primarily by production taxes the mining companies pay, and those tax levels are reduced significantly because the production level dropped back in 2009," he said. "So, the repayment of this loan is going to help us make sure we can reinvest in future economic development projects across the Iron Range."

However, Mark Fink, with the Center For Biological Diversity in Duluth says the loan appears a violation of a state law barring state investments in projects subject to environmental review.

The law was recently changed to exempt IRRRB loans.

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