Cliffs' acquisition of ArcelorMittal USA gets antitrust OK

Iron ore mining and steelmaking company Cleveland-Cliffs is one step closer to acquiring competitor ArcelorMittal USA, a move that will double the number of Cliffs' Iron Range mines and pellet plants.

The Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission notified Cliffs that it would waive the waiting period for a needed antitrust clearance, moving the deal forward, the company said in a news release last week.

"This clearance represents the most significant milestone toward the completion of this transaction, and re-affirms the anticipated closing of the deal in December 2020," Cliffs said in the release.

Cliffs owns Northshore Mining in Silver Bay and Babbitt and United Taconite in Forbes. Through this deal, it will acquire ArcelorMittal's Minorca Mine in Virginia and the managing role and largest ownership share of Hibbing Taconite.

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It will also buy ArcelorMittal's steelmaking plants throughout the U.S.

Cliffs bought AK Steel, another first steelmaking company, earlier this year.

Wages stagnant

Unsurprisingly, wages across the Northland aren't going up during this pandemic.

According to a report from The Northspan Group and its job board, Northforce, wages in the pandemic "have stagnated."

While wages are "stable" in "telecommute-friendly" jobs like business, financial services, and civil service, other fields are seeing slight wage decreases.

"No sector shows a dramatic drop in average wages, although several (including manufacturing and marketing) have ticked downward," the report said.

There's good news for construction and health care workers, which are seeing "continued wage increases." That's thanks to a tight labor market in construction and likely hazard pay in health care, the report said.

It's just another Cyber Monday

Back in the early internet days, office workers returning to their desk and computer on a Monday after a long Thanksgiving weekend would do some Christmas shopping on company time. The deals offered that day became knowns as Cyber Monday — a nod to Black Friday, its brick-and-mortar predecessor.

Things have obviously changed. The vast majority of us have access to the internet at home. And offices jobs? Many of those are at home, too.

The pandemic has only increased online sales. As our everyday shopping habits shift online, it seems like every day is just becoming a little bit more like Cyber Monday.

Here's a tidbit I noted in my story on local businesses finding unique ways to safely draw customers in during the most important season to their bottom line: nationwide online sales were up more than 37% in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019, according to quarterly retail commerce sales data from the U.S. Census Bureau. E-commerce made up 13.5% of total retail sales in the third quarter this year, up from 10.6% in the third quarter of 2019.

Don't forget to shop local this holiday season. That's possible online, too, you know. And if you shop during work, I won't tell your boss.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy and mining for the Duluth News Tribune. Contact him at 218-723-5332 or

This story originally contained the incorrect name for The Northspan Group. It was updated at 12:22 p.m. Dec. 14 with the proper name. It was originally posted at midnight Dec. 2. The News Tribune regrets the error.