Indefinite idle continues at Keetac, but two projects underway

Updated: August 03, 2020 07:05 PM

U.S. Steel announced on their earnings call that two of their blast furnaces are going to remain down for the rest of the year, and that means Keetac will remain on indefinite idle. The road to the plant has been too quiet for many in town.

More than 300 steelworkers have been laid off since the spring.

Local 2660 President Dan Pierce weighed in on Monday, saying it's hard for their members to see other mines coming back online. "We're in it for the long haul. We miss seeing everyone's happy faces, especially new people in the mine. I miss those conversations with the guys, about what happened over the weekend."

He's been trying to keep everyone updated about what's going on. "They are staying busy, and staying focused, on keeping their families safe during the pandemic."

About 40 members are clocking in to help U.S. Steel finish up two projects.

Pierce is hoping this layoff isn't as long as the one in 2015, which went on for two years. He estimates that about 75-100 people didn't come back after that. And it took a couple of years to build up staffing again, and now they're in another idle.

He's grateful for the state helping get everyone signed up for unemployment.

"These are good paying jobs, and the uncertainty is especially hard for small towns like Keewatin," shared Ben DeNucci, the chair of the Itasca County Board.

He said the county has taken some steps to help during this pandemic, like offering appointments with the Auditor/Treasurer, if people are having a hard time paying property taxes right now. "We can talk about different solutions," he said. "We're all in this together," DeNucci added.

Hibbing Taconite and Northshore Mining are restarting operations after temporary idles this spring due to COVID-19.

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