Cleveland-Cliffs set to reopen Northshore Mining in April

Northshore Mining (courtesy of Cleveland-Cliffs)

By Jerry Burnes/Iron Range Today

Northshore Mining in Silver Bay and Babbitt will reopen in at least a partial capacity by early April, with workers set to return to the job site as early as next week.

Local and statewide elected officials were notified of the plans Monday and recall notices were sent to workers this week.

Cleveland-Cliffs confirmed Monday that it notified some employees, but a company spokesperson said they “will provide more details when we decide when and at what capacity this operation will be brought back online.”

Northshore was idled last May due to demand and a royalty dispute, impacting 450 people, and Cliffs anticipated the mine and processing plant would reopen in the early second quarter of this year. 

The royalty dispute between Cliffs and Mesabi Trust arose in February 2022 when Lourenco Goncalves, chairman, president and CEO of the mining company, called the royalty structure “ridiculous” and that it would idle Northshore. He also cited the ability to produce DR-grade pellets at the company’s Minorca Mine in Virginia, reducing the need for iron ore pellets. 

Mesabi Trust reportedly agreed to renegotiate terms of the royalty agreement, according to local officials, prompting the potential restart of the mine. 

Cliffs didn’t provide an update on Northshore during its Feb. 14 earnings call, but said it anticipated nearly $2 billion in savings on its steelmaking costs, in part from reduced maintenance and idle time at its operations.

Extended unemployment benefits for Northshore miners was among the first bills signed into law this session by the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Time Walz. The bill was authored by a northeastern Minnesota delegation of  Sens. Grant Hauschild, Jen McEwen, Rob Farnsworth, Justin Eichorn, and Kari Dziedzic and Reps. Dave Lislegard, Roger Skraba, and Spencer Igo.

Hauschild said he was encouraged that the process to reopen is beginning.

“I heard from numerous miners who were impacted by this closure who said they wanted to get back to work,” Hauschild said through a statement. “While we were able to get them a bridge in unemployment extension until April with my recent bill, my primary goal has always been to reopen these two plants. I’m glad to say that we’re one step closer to making that happen.”

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