Another blow for the mining industry.
CEO of Cliffs Natural Resources announced Wednesday on the company's earnings call that the company is going to idle United Taconite, which includes the mine in Eveleth and the plant in Forbes. The process of idling could take through the end of August.
Lourenco Goncalves cited pellet inventory as the reason for the shutdown. He also said they are going to do the idle in a way that they can promptly bring back operations.
Around 500 people work at United Taconite, according to a statement from Cliffs in September of last year. That's when they celebrated 50 years in business.
Local 6860 union officials said their people were told during emergency meetings at the plant and mine on Wednesday morning.
"We were told by plant management that they forecasted the layoffs to last about six months. The first wave could come within 10 days, and expect the rest will be at the end of August," said Dan Hill, a leader from Local 6860. "It was pretty quiet in the lunchroom today."
Goncalves said the one good thing about idling UTac is it gives them a chance to start developing the transformation of the plant needed to make a certain pellet for ArcelorMittal.
The union wants to be part of that transition. "We look at it as 125,000 man hours that our people could work," Hill added. The project is slated to begin in September.
Goncalves mentioned they have a partnership with NUCOR to develop Direct Reduced Iron grade pellets, for a DRI facility in the Great Lakes.
He stressed that the future looks promising for UTac.
Governor Dayton's office said he was planning on meeting with steelworkers soon about this. And Congressman Rick Nolan was at the White House Wednesday night, urging immediate assistance for the workers affected by steel imports.
Layoffs and job terminations in the mining industry this year totals around 1500, although about 400 people are returning or have returned to Minntac soon.
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