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Hibtac restart pushed back to August

A full restart is planned for August 6. Employees will be called back beginning July 27.

FILE: Hibbing Taconite
Hibbing Taconite's pellet processing plant from the air. (2002 file / News Tribune)
Contributed / Hibbing Taconite

The restart of the Hibbing Taconite iron ore mine and pellet processing plant has been pushed back until August, leaving 650 of its employees laid off until the end of July.

ArcelorMittal, which manages Hibtac and owns the largest stake in the mine, announced it would idle the facility and lay off all but 100 of its 750 employees in April as the demand for steel tumbled during the COVID-19 pandemic .

The shutdown was originally supposed to end in July but an ArcelorMittal spokesperson on Wednesday said full production would begin August 6 while employees will begin being called back from layoffs beginning July 27.

"The company will be taking all precautions and protocols necessary to ensure a safe and orderly restart," the spokesperson said.

News of the delayed restart was first reported by WDIO .

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As demand for steel plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, layoffs at Iron Range mines have totaled roughly 1,760 workers โ€” 470 at Cleveland-Cliffs' Northshore Mining in Babbitt and Silver Bay, 375 at U.S. Steel's Keetac in Keewatin, 260 at U.S. Steel's Minntac in Mountain Iron and 650 at Hibtac. It's more than one-third of the approximately 4,000 total jobs on the Iron Range's six mines.

Last week, Cleveland-Cliffs said it would restart its Tilden Mine in Michigan and construction on its hot-briquetted iron plant in Toledo as demand for steel increases.

Cliffs' Northshore Mining facilities, however, are still scheduled for an August restart.

U.S. Steel's Keetac has been idled "indefinitely," the company has siad.

Hibbing Taconite is a joint venture between ArcelorMittal, Cleveland-Cliffs and U.S. Steel and can produce 7.8 million tons of pellets per year.

United Steelworkers Local 2705, the union representing Hibtac employees, did not immediately respond to the News Tribune's request for comment Wednesday night.

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