ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota officials are giving a break to three taconite producers by retroactively lowering their royalty rates on ore mined on the Iron Range.

Wednesday’s decision to drop the rate by almost 19 percent will cost the state an estimated $890,000 that would have come in between this April and next June, the Department of Natural Resources estimated.

A fourth producer got the same break earlier.

The State Executive Council voted 4-1 for the rate break, with Auditor Rebecca Otto the lone dissenter. She questioned whether money would go to company shareholders and executives rather than to keep mine workers on the job.

A domestic steel downturn has prompted production slowdowns at mines and layoffs in northeastern Minnesota. Lawmakers are contemplating a special session to extend unemployment benefits for idled steelworkers.

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