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Just what went on at Algoma Steel's sinter plant? (6 photos)

This week's Remember This column looks back at a new process that made the Helen Mine relevant again

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

The steel making process requires a regular supply of iron ore in order to produce steel. It was Algoma Ore Properties Limited that maintained a supply of ore to be delivered to the steel plant. However, as with all mines, the supply of ore eventually will run out.

In 1921, the Helen Mine closed due to exhausting its supply of iron ore. Eventually the mine would be re-opened in 1939 and produce siderite ore, which contained about 25 per cent iron. This ore was not considered to be of much value until a new process known as sintering was developed. Sintering is defined as the “process of turning fine grained raw materials into a coarse grained iron ore sinter, ready to be charged to the blast furnace.” 

Sintering improved the iron content in the ore to about 51 per cent. 

Mike Bugya remembers being brought in by the company in the winter of 1939 as a construction worker to build the Sinter Plant.  Though records indicate he started on March 25, he distinctly remembered that he started on February 25 since it was his wife’s birthday. 

When the mine finally opened, it used the open pit method of mining. The ore was transported by an aerial tramway to the Sintering Plant. In 1949 underground mining was once again introduced at the Helen Mine. 

After the death of Sir James Dunn in 1956, Algoma Steel underwent major reorganization. In 1960, Algoma Ore Properties Ltd. transitioned to become the Algoma Ore Division of the Algoma Steel Corporation. 

On Dec.10, 1997 the decision was made to close down Algoma Steel’s mining operations in the Michipicoten region and the Sinter Plant was finally closed and removed the following year by June of 1998. 

Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

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