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United Taconite to idle two Iron Range operations, 500 temporary layoffs likely

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Another taconite mine and a plant in Minnesota's Iron Range will be idled, meaning temporary layoffs for around 500 workers.

Cliffs Natural Resources announced in an earnings call Wednesday that it would be idling United Taconite, which comprises of a mine in Eveleth and a processing plant in Forbes, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

The reason given was that the company has a surplus of the taconite iron ore pellets produced by the centers at a time when demand from U.S. steelmakers remains down, the newspaper notes, adding it's unclear when the shut down will start and how long it will last.

The company has said it will use the time its operations are idled to upgrade its plant so it can start producing a kind of iron ore pellet specifically for multi-national steel giant ArcelorMittal, WDIO reports, which should extend United Taconite's future in Minnesota.

It is nonetheless another jobs blow for the Iron Range, with mining towns experiencing hundreds of temporary layoffs this summer as demand for U.S.-produced ore dwindles in the face of competition from foreign suppliers.

It was hoped that the area was over the worst with reports that U.S. Steel could be re-opening its idled Minntac plant in Mountain Iron this September, meaning 400 workers could return to their jobs.

Cliffs Natural Resources reported its second-quarter results Wednesday that saw its revenues drop by 33 percent from $748 million last year to just $498 million.

Lourenco Goncalves, the company's CEO, said he expects actions taken to combat allegations against foreign countries of unfairly trading steel in the U.S. market should result in "improved industry operating conditions and profitability in the second half of this year."

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