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US Steel to idle another Iron Range plant – meaning 680 temporary layoffs

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Almost 700 more workers are set to be laid off in Minnesota's Iron Range as U.S. Steel plans to idle another iron ore plant in June, as a result of the downturn in the industry.

The Associated Press reports the company will idle part of its Minntac taconite plant in Mountain Iron, near Virginia, from June 1, which is expected to result in 680 workers being laid off.

Company spokeswoman Courtney Boone told the AP the layoffs will be temporary, but can't speculate on when they'll be taken back on.

Earlier this month, U.S. Steel announced it will be idling its Keetac plant in Keewatin, about 30 miles away from the Minntac plant, causing 412 workers to be furloughed.

It comes as the country's steel industry is experiencing a major slump, with the Duluth News Tribune reporting U.S. Steel blames an "oversupply of iron ore and continued low demand for American-made steel."

Domestic producers are facing serious competition from foreign companies who are able to export steel made with cheaper iron ore.

"These ongoing operational adjustments are a result of challenging market conditions that reflect the cyclical nature of the industry," the company said in a statement. "Global influences in the market, including a high level of imports, unfairly traded products and reduced steel prices, continue to have an impact."

New taconite mine set open – at the wrong time?

The struggles facing the steel industry comes as the end nears for a nine-year long saga to build the first modern taconite operation in Minnesota.

MPR reports after years of struggles getting the project off the ground, market conditions have dampened enthusiasm for the $2 billion Essar Steel project, which is set for its ribbon cutting this summer.

Iron Range leaders are said to be anxious for a rebound in the industry, but Essar Steel Minnesota CEO Madhu Vuppuluri is more confident, telling the news station there will be a growing demand for steel as North America replaces its aging infrastructure, such as airports and bridges.

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