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Report: Laid off mine workers will return to Minntac plant in September


An unwanted summer break for hundreds of Minnesota mine workers may come to an end about the time the kids are going back to school.

Union sources and a state lawmaker tell WDIO that U.S. Steel plans to call back all of the 400 or so laid-off workers at its Minntac plant in Mountain Iron in September.

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Northland's NewsCenter says a memo written by the president of United Steelworkers Local 1938 indicates September is the earliest employees at Minntac can expect to start working again.

There's been no mention of U.S. Steel calling back 250 workers laid off at its other Minnesota taconite plant in Keewatin.

The company has made no official announcement about either facility, although a U.S. Steel spokeswoman confirmed to the Mesabi Daily News last week that some Minntac workers were called back to handle maintenance work, which would have been contracted out in other years.

A statement on the union's website says 68 employees are handling that maintenance work.

This spring U.S. Steel said more than 600 workers would be furloughed at Minntac beginning in June, but that number was later reduced in an agreement with the union.

A glut of steel on the global market and a reduced demand for it have depressed iron ore prices this year. Northeastern Minnesota blogger Aaron Brown notes that its vast stockpile of taconite has allowed U.S. Steel to keep filling orders this summer while its Minnesota mines are idle.

While an impending�� return of workers to Minntac is being cheered on the Iron Range, Brown says there's still unease, given the industry's economic picture.

A new forecast from the World Bank this week predicted iron prices will fall further as more capacity comes online in Australia.

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