Iron Range hit by another jobs blow as firm reportedly lays off 100 workers


In another blow to the economy of Minnesota's Iron Range, reports say 100 workers are being laid off by Cliffs Natural Resources.

Steelworkers Union leaders told WDIO around 100 salaried positions were being eliminated between the company's Hibbing Taconite, Northshore Mining and United Taconite facilities, though the company has not commented on the developments.

It comes after Cliffs said earlier this week they are looking to reduce costs wherever they can, which would include in staffing, but the indication was that these cost-cutting plans would not affect Minnesota.

The Duluth News Tribune reports Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves said during a conference call last week the company would actually be investing in Minnesota, pushing ahead with plans to build a "direct-reduced iron" plant, while reducing production at its Empire plant in Michigan, but not at its existing Minnesota facilities.

Speaking last week, U.S. Steelworkers District 11 spokesman John Rebrovich told the Star Tribune Michigan employees had started receiving layoff notices. But while he said Minnesota would not be affected, he added: "There are no [Cliffs] layoffs as of today. But I can't predict tomorrow.

It is the latest in the string of layoffs in the state's northern mining industry as a result of low demand for steel, which is leading to the temporary layoff of around 1,100 workers by U.S. Steel as it idles its Keewatin and Minntac iron ore plants.

Magnetation LLC also announced in February it would be idling its plant, also in Keewatin, affecting at least 40 jobs. On Tuesday, the company announced it was filing for bankruptcy protection following a downturn in business, MPR notes.

"Unfortunately, this is becoming familiar news," state Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, told the Mesabi Daily News. "We will do everything we can to make sure the state of Minnesota is supportive of our families on the Range and that they get the benefits they earned and deserved."

"Once again, family and friends on the Range are facing economic hardship and an uncertain future," state Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, added.

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