Cliffs eyes fall start for United Taconite

Lourenco Goncalves

Lourenco Goncalves

In a call to investors yesterday, Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves announced that his company will reopen Northshore Mining in May and plans to restart United Taconite in Eveleth later this year.

Goncalves also announced that Cliffs made a profit during the last quarter, which wasn’t expected. However, Cliffs remains more than $2 billion in debt.

A few weeks ago, Goncalves said United could reopen this year if Cliffs gets a pending contract with the steelmaker ArcelorMittal.

Goncalves dismissed the widely-speculated notion that U.S. Steel might compete for the ArcelorMittal contract, saying that the shrinking giant does not currently have the facilities to make the right kind of pellet.

In any event, the Arcelor contract is not yet in place. Obviously that’s the deciding factor in whether or not United Taconite opens during the fourth quarter of 2016 on Goncalves’ proposed timeline.

More than 400 workers have been laid off from United Taconite since August 2015.

And in typical fashion, Goncalves took a swing at the currently dormant Essar Steel Minnesota, calling the start-and-stop project “hopeless.” He did say how much he liked the ore under the ground at the Nashwauk site, however, and reiterated the possibility that Cliffs could buy the project if the price is right.

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