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Bloom Lake mine, dumped by Cliffs, to reopen by March

The Bloom Lake iron ore mine in northern Quebec, shut down and abandoned by Cleveland-Cliffs in 2014, will be back up and running by March, the mine's new owner says.

Quebec Iron Ore Inc., a subsidiary of Champion Iron Ltd., said Wednesday that it already has 250 employees on site and will have 450 workers by Christmas at the facility near Fermont, Quebec, near the border with Labrador.

The new company raised $350 million in financing, including about $51 million from the Quebec government, a $100 million loan from a government pension fund and another $80 million loan from a private lender.

"It's never easy to raise $350 million to start a project but people believed in the potential of the iron mine at Bloom Lake," chief operating officer David Cataford told the CBC.

The mine is expected to produce 7.4 million tons of iron ore concentrate — on pace with Minnesota's largest taconite iron ore operations — which the company said it has already sold through signed offtake agreements. That iron ore could compete with Minnesota ore for newly opening foreign markets.

Champion in August said it had signed agreements with Swiss-based Glencore to buy ore for the next decade from the Quebec operations. Glencore also has agreed to invest more than $56 million in the revived mine. (Glencore is the largest investor and only signed customer for the proposed PolyMet copper mine near Babbitt.)

Quebec Iron Ore Inc. and agencies of the provincial government bought the Bloom Lake mine and a regional railway last year from the Canadian affiliate of what was then Cliffs Natural Resources, now Cleveland-Cliffs. Cliffs walked away from Bloom Lake in 2014 as the global demand and price for iron ore began to drop. The company's then brand-new CEO, Lourenco Goncalves, said the company's Canadian operations were not profitable and that the company would instead focus on U.S. production and markets for iron ore.

The Bloom Lake mine moves its ore by train to a deepwater port that can handle large, oceangoing ships. The new owners say that gives it an advantage in the global iron ore market to ship product to faraway steel mills. Several Minnesota iron ore operations have been shipping Iron Range taconite overseas in recent months with more planning to enter the global market.

Bloom Lake is not the only former Cliffs operation to see new interest.

In July, the former owners of the Magnetation iron ore processing operations on Minnesota's Iron Range said they had formed Tacora Resources Inc. to restart the Scully Mine located in Wabush, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Matt and Larry Lehtinen continue to work to secure financing, purchase agreements and other details toward reopening the Scully operation that Cliffs mothballed in 2014.

Cliffs remains the largest U.S. iron ore producer, with three operations in Minnesota and one in Michigan.

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