Another blow for Iron Range: 2 plants idled for 2 years, 200 workers laid off

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It keeps on getting worse for workers on Minnesota's Iron Range, where another 200 workers will be laid off as two more plants become the casualties of the global drop in iron ore prices.

MPR reports that Indiana-based Steel Dynamics announced Tuesday it will idle its iron concentrate plant near Chisholm and its Mesabi Nugget plant near Aurora and Hoyt Lakes for the next two years.

The move will affect around 200 workers, though it will keep a small number of workers on to maintain its Minnesota sites. The company will offer jobs at other facilities to those laid off.

"We deeply regret the need to take this action, as the men and women in Minnesota have made great strides in production capability and cost savings relative to this pioneering effort. I commend their dedication, hard work, and strong commitment to the company and area communities," Mark D. Millett, Steel Dynamics chief executive officer said, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

The newspaper noted that Steel Dynamics idled its Mesabi Nugget plant in January for an initial six to eight weeks, before extending this idling period to reduce its inventory and install equipment. Ore prices fell even further in the last few months, so the shutdown will now continue until 2017.

It is another blow for workers in the Iron Range following temporary layoffs by companies including U.S. Steel and Magnetation.

Responding to the news, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan said in a news release that Congress should review trade agreements that are allowing foreign nations to "flood" the market with government-subsidized, low-grade steel that is taking business away from American producers.

“Our first concern as always is with the workers and their families, as well as with the businesses and supporting jobs that will be affected by this decision," he said.

"Time and again it’s been shown that we are incapable of effectively enforcing these trade agreements, which are allowed to do incalculable damage to American workers before even the most rudimentary actions can be taken," Nolan added.

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