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Mining CEO expects 2 idled MN operations to reopen this year

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The parent company of two idled Minnesota mines says it expects those operations to be up and running again – though not for a couple months.

According to WDIO, the CEO of Cliffs Natural Resources – which owns the United Taconite and Northshore Mining sites, both currently idled – will remain shuttered through March. But the company does expect them to be operational again at some point this year.

The mining industry – and Cliffs – was hit hard in 2015, as companies coped with a slumping demand for steel. At least seven of Minnesota's 11 major mining operations are idled or shut down, the Duluth News Tribune reported, and nearly 2,000 workers have been laid off.

That difficulty was reflected in Cliffs' fourth quarter results released this week – the company lost $58 million during that quarter alone.

In December, White House Chief of Staff (and Minnesota native) Denis McDonough visited the Iron Range, saying he and the president's administration understand the urgency of the situation. But fixes aren't clear-cut.

The price of steel has fallen dramatically recently – and many people, Minnesota officials included, blame it at least partially on other countries.

Countries such as China and India have been accused of illegally dumping cheap, foreign-made steel, and it’s ended up in the U.S. – meaning there’s less of a demand for steel made by companies here in the states.

The New York Times explored the problem in-depth in this article.

Michigan mine ending

Meanwhile the company's Empire Mine operation, located in Michigan, won't be producing things for much longer – and that could benefit Minnesota.

Forum News Service reports Empire is nearing the end of its life, and an official said operations there will end permanently within months. When that happens, production will be shifted to the United Taconite mine in Eveleth.

The pellets produced at Empire are currently bought by Arcelor-Mittal for an Indiana Harbor mill, Upper Michigan's Source reports.

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