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Cliffs Celebrates $100 Million Expansion at Northshore

Updated: August 06, 2019 06:23 PM

A big moment for Northshore Mining in Silver Bay. Leaders celebrated the completion of a $100 million dollar expansion project on Tuesday.

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"Mission accomplished. It's not easy, adding on to a plant that is running," explained the CEO of Cleveland-Cliffs, Lourenco Goncalves. "We had absolutely no problems, and zero accidents, zero safety incidents." He praised the team at Northshore and the contractor, Lakehead Constructors. 

Northshore is now the only U.S. based iron ore processing facility to produce low silica DR-grade pellets, according to Cliffs. The company broke ground in March of 2018, but most of the work began in May that year. The first pellets rolled off the line in June of this year.

The upgrade to the concentrator building, new scavenger building, new conveyor systems, a limestone tank, and a steam generating plant are now complete, after nearly 500,000 labor hours of work. The media was able to tour a portion of the upgrade, which included eight miles of new piping.

"The workforce is energized and excited," shared Paul Carlson, general manager of Northshore, during the tour. "They know this represents the future."

Silver Bay's mayor, Scott Johnson, spoke to WDIO afterwards. "Cleveland-Cliffs has provided stability, they have foresight, and great marketing for their pellets. This is the first time we feel encouraged about the future. We're always waiting for the other shoe to drop."

Most of the DR grade pellets will be shipped to their HBI plant in Toledo, which is under construction, with an anticipated start-up date of mid 2020. HBI is used in the newer method of making steel, using the electric arc furnace.

Some of the pellets will also be exported, according to Cliffs.

Lawmakers attended the ribbon-cutting event. Congressman Pete Stauber said, "Mining is Minnesota past, present, and future. And today, we are here for the future."

His succesor, former Congressman Rick Nolan was also on hand, saying this was a much different feeling than when the plant was idled in 2015. "I can tell you it's exciting being here to celebrate the great progress. Not to put a damper on things, but remember, it is a journey," he said.

And Rep. Rob Ecklund said, "This Northshore expansion is an impressive undertaking. We should all be proud of it."

Goncalves added, "This is for the next generation, and the generation after next." He still hopes for an HBI facility in Minnesota.

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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