Cliffs will idle another Iron Range mine through March

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, Cliffs Natural Resources announced it would idle Northshore Mining in Babbitt and Silver Bay through March 2016. (PHOTO: Eric Jacobi, Flickr CC)

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, Cliffs Natural Resources announced it would idle Northshore Mining in Babbitt and Silver Bay through March 2016. (PHOTO: Eric Jacobi, Flickr CC)


This morning Cliffs Natural Resources announced that beginning on Dec. 1 it would idle Northshore Mining in Babbitt and Silver Bay at least through March of 2016. Cliffs also announced that already-idled United Taconite in Eveleth would remain shut down at least that long as well. Company leaders say the shutdown will end when market conditions improve.

Five hundred workers at Northshore will be affected by the idling. Northshore is a unique mining operation in that the ore is mined on the far eastern Mesabi Iron Range near Babbitt and hauled by a special company railroad to the processing facility in the North Shore community of Silver Bay, where hot pellets are loaded directly into ore ships. Northshore is also the only non-union taconite plant in Minnesota.

Lourenco Goncalves, Cliffs’ Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “The historic high tonnage of foreign steel dumped into the U.S. continues to negatively impact the steel production levels of our domestic customers. As our pellet inventory at both Northshore and United Taconite is adequate to meet current customer demand, we will be able to optimize our working capital and cash flow by temporarily idling production at Northshore.” Mr. Goncalves added, “Our pellet inventory is currently at a seasonally, historic high level. As a result, we are taking this action to work off our pellet inventory pending receipt of our customers’ tonnage requirements for 2016 which have not been finalized. The resolution of the trade cases currently filed by the domestic steelmakers against several countries and covering a broad range of steel products should bring a positive impact to the domestic market sometime during the first half of 2016. As soon as the unfairly traded steel problem subsides and domestic steel production recovers to normal levels, we will be able to immediately ramp up iron ore pellet production by bringing idled capacity back to operation.”

Cliffs anticipates that both Northshore and United Taconite operations will be temporarily idled through the first quarter of 2016. During that time frame, Cliffs will continue to operate Hibbing Taconite in Minnesota, as well as the Tilden and Empire mines in Michigan, at normal rates. The Company will assess and adjust its production plans as market conditions improve.

U.S. Steel’s Keewatin Taconite is also idled indefinitely right now, leaving just U.S. Steel’s MinnTac, which is the state’s largest mine, ArcelorMittal’s Minorca Mine, and Cliffs-operated Hibbing Taconite as the only iron mines currently producing on the Iron Range.

In the last year, Mesabi Nugget announced it would close at least three years. Magnetation entered bankruptcy protection while it reorganized from heavy debt. Virtually every mining operation on the Iron Range has suffered for a historic sustained drop in iron ore prices.

Last week, Gov. Mark Dayton announced he would seek a special session early next year to extend unemployment benefits for Range miners, though there have been no commitments from legislative leaders on that issue. Those benefits are currently slated to expire before the legislature opens its regular session in March, late this year because of the Capitol renovation project.

Meanwhile, the United Steelworkers are still negotiating their next contract with all the major mining companies, which have each demanded large concessions from workers. The Iron Range mines still operating are doing so under temporary contract extensions.


  1. I cannot believe the United States of America can let this happen. Why are we not taking care of our own. Does the current president feel we are not worthy of a job. After all who pays his wages and the wages of all in government. Step up and take care of your own. Whose going to pay for all those coming in and getting a free ride.
    We are very worried about this and disgusted with it all.

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