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More struggles on the Iron Range: Another iron ore plant might be idled

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A day after Cliffs Natural Resources announced it would be idling its operation in northern Minnesota, Magnetation says it may temporarily idle production at its Bovey iron ore plant at the end of January.

The company says it's making the announcement of the potential idling at its Plant 2 facility now because federal law requires 60 days notice if there is potential for a layoff of more than 50 employees for over six months, a news release notes.

Larry Lehtinen, CEO of Magnetation, said in the news release a curtailment is unfortunate, but "we must balance our current production with our customers' needs to sustain our business in these challenging markets."

He added that at this point there is now way to know how long the idling may last, but "we are hopeful that Plant 2 production would resume in 2016."

Some employees may have the opportunity to work within other areas of the Grand Rapids-based company, Lehtinen says, noting the company will work with governmental agencies to assist any affected employees if the Bovey plant does idle.

Plant 2 employs approximately 150 people, the company told BringMeTheNews.

Magnetation, which owns two other iron ore concentrate plants in Keewatin and Grand Rapids, idled its Keewatin facility in March, and in May it indefinitely idled Plant 3 (a joint effort with Steel Dynamics), WDIO reports. It also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year.

That's in addition to a handful of other companies idling their operations this year, which has resulted in more than 1,500 jobs being lost in the region, MPR News reports.

The layoffs prompted Gov. Mark Dayton to say he supports a special session to extend unemployment benefits to roughly 600 steelworkers who would otherwise see benefits run out – a move fellow DFLer and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk has endorsed.

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