US Steel (USS) plans to idle the Keetac taconite mine and processing plant in Keewatin on the Mesabi iron range in northern Minnesota, indefinitely the company said in a statement shared with Davis Index.
The company cited the rapid decline in iron and steel demand, following the shutdown of key industries such as automotive companies since the onset of COVID-19, for its decision that includes laying off 360 of its approximately 423 employees.
The closure will affect around 100 employees, those with three years or less service, in the short term and the remaining employees will be laid off over the next month, USS said. Both represented and non-represented employees will be impacted.
USS said that further adjustments to its production of raw materials will be required after conducting additional evaluation of current demand levels. This announcement follows operational adjustments the company announced on March 27.
The Keetac plant is the second mine in Minnesota to idle and lay off employees. Cleveland-Cliffs announced Monday it would idle its Northshore Mining plants in Silver Bay and Babbitt until mid-August at the earliest, and its Tilden mining operations in Michigan until the end of July, laying off 470 of its 570 employees.
USS’s iron pelletizing operations in Minnesota consists of two pelletizing plants, Keetac and Minntac. The Keetac mine can produce about 6mn nt (5.4mn mt) of iron ore pellets per year, and Minntac has a production capacity of about 16mn nt of pellets per year. It is unclear if USS plans to take similar action at its other mine operations in Minntac.