DULUTH – Hibbing Taconite will keep 650 employees laid off for another month as COVID-19 and its devastating effects on the global economy keeps the iron ore operation idled.
Hibbing Taconite announced in April that it would shut down from May 3 to July 6. The goal is now to bring workers back at the end of July and resume full production by Aug. 6, according to a company spokesperson.
The mine is majority-owned and operated by ArcelorMittal, which said it “will be taking all precautions and protocols necessary to ensure a safe and orderly restart.”
About 1,750 Iron Range mining jobs have been cut because of closures and slowdowns as steel demand remains depressed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this month the World Steel Association forecast global demand to contract 6.4% for 2020 and rebound 3.8% in 2021.
“With the easing of restrictions that started in May, we expect the situation to gradually improve, but the recovery path will be slow,” Saeed Al Remeithi, chair of the organization’s economics committee, said in a statement. “If the virus can be contained without second and third peaks, and if government stimulus measures are continued, we could see a relatively quick recovery.”
U.S. Steel reduced operations at Minntac in Mountain Iron, the largest taconite operation on the Range, starting May 10. Originally intended to last eight to 11 weeks, some employees will now be laid off until mid-September, according to the United Steelworkers Local 1938.
The company’s smaller mine, Keetac in Keewatin, has been idled indefinitely.
Cleveland-Cliffs has taken Northshore Mining’s Babbit and Silver Bay facilities offline until August. Cliffs is restarting its Tilden Mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula earlier than expected, the company announced last week, after “a faster improvement in steel demand from [Cliffs subsidiary] AK Steel’s clients than initially anticipated, particularly in the automotive sector.”