ArcelorMittal to shut down Indiana blast furnace

The move won't impact jobs at Minorca mine, which supplies the furnace with pellets, company says

Taconite pellets at ArcelorMittal's Minorca mine. (file / News Tribune)

ArcelorMittal will shut down one of three operational blast furnaces at its Indiana Harbor steelmaking plant in East Chicago, Ind.

The blast furnace is set shut down for maintenance and will restart when demand for steel increases, an ArcelorMittal spokesperson said Monday.

The blast furnace "has reached the end of its current campaign and requires significant capital investment for continued operation. .... The furnace will be taken down in a safe and orderly fashion and preserved to maintain our capacity for when customer demand merits the necessary capital investments for a new campaign," an ArcelorMittal spokesperson said in a statement.

The 35 people who work on the blast furnace will be reassigned to other duties at Indiana Harbor, the spokesperson said.

ArcelorMittal's Minorca mine in Virginia supplies Indiana Harbor's blast furnaces with fluxed iron-bearing pellets, but one less blast furnace at Indiana Harbor won't lead to changes at Minorca, the company said.


"There isn’t any anticipated impact on Minorca as a result of this action," the spokesperson said.

ArcelorMittal, like other steel companies, is facing low steel prices, its CEO Lakshmi Mittal said last week in a news release announcing its third-quarter results.

"As anticipated, we continued to face tough market conditions in the third quarter, characterized by low steel prices coupled with high raw-material costs. In these markets, we remain focused on our own initiatives to improve performance and our priority is to reduce costs, adapt production and focus on ensuring the business remains cash flow positive," Mittal said.

Last week, U.S. Steel laid off non-union workers throughout the company, including approximately 30 people from its Keetac and Minntac mines and taconite plants on the Iron Range. U.S. Steel had already idled one of its production lines at Minntac in October due to lower demand.

The Pittsburgh-based company said Friday it was "battling challenging market conditions." U.S. Steel lost $84 million in the third quarter of 2019.

Cleveland-Cliffs, which operates mines and taconite plants in Minnesota and Michigan, reported lower third-quarter results as well . In a call with investors last month, CEO Lourenco Goncalves blamed a historic month-over-month decrease in pellet premiums, which impacted the company's exports.

Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at or 218-723-5332.
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