Cliffs extends idle at Babbitt, Silver Bay facilities; lay offs continue for 410 workers

Cleveland Cliffs
Cleveland Cliffs(WLUC)
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 1:31 PM CDT
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BABBITT, MN -- A local lawmaker is calling for the state legislature to lend a hand amid news that hundreds of laid off Northlanders won’t be heading back to work until much longer than expected.

Cleveland Cliffs operates Northshore Mining, which includes a mine in Babbitt and a pellet plant in Silver Bay.

The facilities first idled in May, laying off 410 of their 600 workers.

Cliffs expected to go back online by this fall.

But during an earnings call Friday, company leaders announced the facilities will stay offline until at least April 2023.

Lourenco Goncalves, Cliffs’ CEO, says the company pays high royalties to the Mesabi Trust, which was one of the original reasons for the idle.

Now, with the increase use of scrap in their steelmaking operations, Goncalves said Friday the pellets from North Shore are not needed at this time.

“Rather than deplete this finite resource for the benefit of the Mesabi Trust, and its so called unit holders we will keep Northshore idle until we decide otherwise,” he said.

With hundreds of workers now laid off longer than expected, Rep. Rob Ecklund is urging the Minnesota Legislature to come together for a special session and consider ways to help those workers.

“Today’s announcement is most unwelcome for the dedicated employees of Northshore Mining who – due to no fault of their own – will continue to face uncertainty regarding when they can return to the job. Whenever Minnesotans face economic adversity, we have the responsibility to step up and help however we can. Previously, when mines faced prolonged shutdowns, we’ve come together to extend Unemployment Insurance benefits for impacted workers. Most laid-off workers from Northshore will exhaust their UI benefits before the legislature returns to Saint Paul in January. Therefore, it’s critical for lawmakers to come together in a special session and extend this vital economic lifeline for those sent home from their jobs. I hope Governor Walz will call us back to the Capitol to take care of these workers and their families during these tough times, and wrap up other important unfinished business from the legislative session,” Ecklund wrote.

We’ll have more on this story tonight on the KBJR 6 news at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

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