Minnesota iron ore plant idling due to plummeting prices worldwide

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A drop in iron ore prices around the world has led a northern Minnesota plant to idle indefinitely.

Magnetation LLC announced Monday it will "indefinitely idle" its iron ore concentrate facility in Keewatin, Minnesota, starting by the end of March.

The plant will be placed on a care and maintenance program, which will allow it to reopen once the iron ore market improves.

Forty-nine people are expected to lose their jobs as a result of the plant idling, however some may be given positions within the Grand Rapids-based company, the Duluth News Tribune says.

The Keewatin plant is Magnetation's smallest and highest-cost operation. The company's other Minnesota plants, in Bovey and Grand Rapids, will remain open.

The price of iron ore has dropped nearly 50 percent in the past 18 months, the company said in a news release. Magnetation's decision to idle the plant signals that the drop in iron ore prices is affecting Minnesota's mining industry, the Duluth News Tribune says.

Minnesota Brown notes the changing nature of the iron ore business is nothing new for the Iron Range, but this is "another signal that a period of contraction is coming." The blog notes smaller plants will be affected first, and if the market continues to decline larger plants could also idle.

Last fall, the Mesabi Daily News reported unemployment on the Iron Range was 8.02 percent – significantly higher than the state average of 4.88 percent at the time.

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