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Ore supplier to open Duluth office

Iron ore supplier Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. is opening an administrative office in Duluth that will provide services to its North American iron ore mines and international holdings.

Iron ore supplier Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. is opening an administrative office in Duluth that will provide services to its North American iron ore mines and international holdings.

Up to 40 people will be employed at a shared services office in downtown Duluth, Cleveland-Cliffs spokesman Dana Byrne said Wednesday.

"It's part of our strategic plan to grow and be staffed appropriately for our business units as we grow internationally,'' Byrne said.

All of the jobs, including procurement, technology and environmental positions, would be new, Byrne said.

Initially, about 10 people will staff the office, which will open about Jan. 1, he said. Within about a year, employment could reach 40.

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The office will become the center for Cleveland-Cliffs' North American and global iron ore operations, Byrne said.

Cleveland-Cliffs is the largest producer of iron ore pellets in North America. It manages and holds ownership in six North American iron ore mines in Minnesota, Michigan and eastern Canada.

The Cleveland-based company also holds majority ownership in an Australian iron ore operation and is seeking to acquire ownership in a Brazilian mine.

A Duluth office would be centrally located and would serve iron ore operations on the Iron Range and in Michigan, Byrne said.

None of the staff would be transferred from Michigan or Minnesota, he said. Some have already been hired, he said.

From 2001 to 2003, during a nationwide steel slump, Cleveland-Cliffs moved to cut positions at technical service centers and laboratories and trimmed 110 jobs at its headquarters.

But instead of going into a holding pattern, company officials decided to expand.

New ownership in mines -- including the 2003 acquisition of bankrupt EVTAC Mining Co. in Eveleth and Forbes -- and cost-cutting efforts put the company in position to rebound when the industry came alive.

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"We got cut down to the bone,'' Byrne said of employee reductions three years ago. "Now, we're trying to bring some new blood and talent into the organization.''

Since reorganizing and gaining a larger stake in mines, the company has shown strong profitability.

In the second quarter of 2006, the company reported record revenue of $486.2 million. Over the first nine months of 2006, Cleveland-Cliffs recorded $210.1 million net income.

The company has about 1,650 workers at its Minnesota mines and about 1,265 in Michigan. About 85 people work at its Cleveland headquarters.

The Duluth office is part of a new Cleveland-Cliffs business unit announced in July.

Under the realignment, each of the company's holdings is responsible for its own operations, but receives support from the business unit.

LEE BLOOMQUIST covers the Iron Range taconite industry. He can be reached weekdays at (800)368-2506, (218)744-2354 or by e-mail at leebloom@cpinternet.com .

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