Various persons and companies tried to exploit the iron ore in the 19th century, but the Swedish industrialist Mr. Pehrsson was eventually the victor. During the late 1800s he obtained land needed for mining and factory sites, including areas expropriated for the construction of a railway reaching a suitable harbor location at Gullsmedvik, Mo i Rana. In 1901 all this was bought by The Edison Ore Milling Syndicate. This company was established by the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison in order to exploit patents he held on magnetic separation of iron ore.
A great number of additional patents on ore dressing machinery and beneficiation processes where the result of the foundation of the Dunderland Iron Ore Company (D.I.O.C) in 1902.
In Gullsmedvik, by the sea, a briquette works, a quay, and coal power plant were built. An open-pit mine was established at Ørtvann near the village of Storforshei, 20 miles to the north. The complex included a dressing plant based on dry magnetic separation of hematite and magnetite, and a coal power plant. Operations began in 1906 and 9th July 1906 the first 250 tonnes of briquettes were shipped onboard the S/S “Itune” bound for Consett in England.
The product’s quality was good, but about half of the ore’s iron content was lost in the process. The local environment was affected by the large amounts of dust eminating from the dressing plant. For these reasons operations were discontinued in 1908 after 87,200 tonnes of briquettes had been produced. After a period of meticulous evaluation of different alternatives, a plant based on wet dressing of magnetite through magnetic separation, and shaking tables for hematite, was completed at Gullsmedvik in 1917. Being operational for several brief periods prior to World War II, about 500,000 tonnes of a 67% iron ore concentrate was produced. All of D.I.O.C.’s properties were bought by the Norwegian state in 1947.
Rana Gruber AS
Rana Gruber AS was founded in 1937 by A/S Sydvaranger and the German Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG. Following the war’s end in 1945 the Norwegian state acquired the German owned shares in Rana Gruber AS, and in 1951 the company became wholly state owned. In 1958 to 1962 a pilot plant was operational at Storforshei in Rana as suitable dressing technology was being developed. In 1961 the Norwegian Parliament approved plans for a full-scale dressing plant, and also decided that Rana Gruber AS should be incorporated in the company A/S Norsk Jernverk (Norwegian Iron Works Ltd). Rana Gruber remained the mining division of the iron works until its re-structuring in 1989.
The new dressing plant in Gullsmedvik was built in 1962-64 while the open-pit mine at Storforshei was vastly expanded. The dressing process in Gullsmedvik was based on wet autogenous milling in closed circuit with vibrating screens and then Humphreys spiral washing, magnetic separation, apatite (phosphorous mineral) flotation, and dewatering. 1965 was the first full year of normal operations. In 1979-81 a major upgrading took place as Jones high magnetic-intensity separators replaced gravity separation and increased the hematite recovery from the raw ore. In 1983 all mining activities were re-located to the Ørtfjell area approx. 10km north of Storforshei because of the consistency and abundance of iron ore found there.
Rana Gruber’s R&D department was established in 1982 as a strategic means of developing new and more profitable products. During the past 30 years Rana Gruber has developed special products based on natural iron ore for applications like: powder metallurgy, coal washing, water cleaning (Sirofloc Process), chemical/technical uses. In 1990 Rana Gruber became the first company in the world to produce advanced natural black iron oxide pigments from magnetite super concentrates, which are marketed under the trademark. The COLORANA® business has developed since and today offers advanced iron oxides for technical applications, colouring purposes and high-tech magnetic applications.
The development of alternative products with good operational margins allowed Rana Gruber’s continued existence after the closure of the local iron works’ pig iron production in 1989. Due to its specialty products, the company survived the transition to an export mine. Rana Gruber AS re-emerged as a privately-owned company in 1991 as employees and board members bought all the shares from the state.
The open-pit mines at Ørtfjell are closed and from 2000 onwards the iron ore comes from the new Kvannevann underground mine in the vicinity of the Ørtfjell area. Due to the raised demand for iron ore since 2004, Rana Gruber has invested heavily in the infrastructure of the Kvannevann mine. A new production level was put in operation in 2012 with sublevel caving to increase the iron ore recovery and the production.
Since 2008 the mining operations have targeted additional iron ore bodies in the surrounding area which have been mined by open-pit methods.
LNS Eiendom became majority owner of Rana Gruber AS in 2008, and KAGE and A.H.Holding became shareholders in 2016 and 2019, respectively. A major upgrade programme was introduced in 2010 with new mining plan until 2025, while a dedicated R&D department was established to further improve operations. The business optimization system Lean Mining was introduced in 2017.
Rana Gruber is planning to further increase its production and is continuously upgrading its iron ore reserves.