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Range plant co-owner to sell

ST. PAUL -- Bethlehem Steel, a 70 percent owner of Hibbing Taconite, announced Wednesday it is selling its stock in the taconite facility. Bette Kovach, Bethlehem spokeswoman, said the company over the years has been moving out of ownership posit...

ST. PAUL -- Bethlehem Steel, a 70 percent owner of Hibbing Taconite, announced Wednesday it is selling its stock in the taconite facility.
Bette Kovach, Bethlehem spokeswoman, said the company over the years has been moving out of ownership positions of raw material facilities and instead focusing on the core steel business.
She said she could not determine whether the sale would have adverse effects on Hibbing Taconite.
"It's very early in the process," Kovach said. "We have done successful sales before."
Bill Gardner, spokesman for Cleveland Cliffs Inc., which has 15 percent ownership in Hibbing Taconite, said the company just found out about the decision Wednesday and was still reviewing the situation.
"We need to evaluate what the impact will be on Hibbing Taconite," he said. "It's too early to tell right now."
Bethlehem Steel also disclosed Wednesday its fourth quarter loss was larger than expected. The company lost $113 million, or 93 cents per share. High fuel costs and low steel prices were blamed for the loss.
Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, also said he doesn't know what to expect, especially in connection with recent slowdowns at the Hibbing facility.
"Whether on not it's a cause for concern, I don't know," he said. "But I'm leery of what this means."
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said the announcement doesn't shock him.
"This is just indicative of what's going on the mining industry," he said. "This is why we need legislation to protect all Steelworkers."
Cleveland Cliffs announced Jan. 18 the mining facility would shut down for 10 weeks during 2001. On Monday, the Hibbing facility began a six-week temporary idle period that affected about 650 employees. A second shutdown of four weeks is expected this summer.
Hibbing Taconite expects to reduce production from 8 million tons to 6.7 million this year.
The facility employs about 850 workers in its Northeastern Minnesota plant.
Cleveland-Cliffs Wednesday announced its production totals for 2000 for three mines it manages in Northeastern Minnesota: LTV Steel Mining, 7.8 million tons of taconite, compared to 7 million tons in 1999; Hibbing Taconite, 8.2 million tons in 2000, and 6.8 million tons in 1999; and Northshore Mining, 4.3 million tons in 2000, and 3.9 million tons in 1999.

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