SPOKANE (Scrap Monster): The United States Steel Corporation (US Steel) has announced its decision to reopen the idled Keetac iron ore plant in Keewatin, Minnesota. The plant has been idled since May last year.
According to the company press release, the Keetac Plant which has a production capacity of approximately 6 million net tons of taconite pellets, is expected to restart production during March next year. Employees will be called back to work starting in January. The company has already signed agreements with third-party customers towards supply of iron ore pellets. However, it did not reveal the names of third-party pellet-buyers. The company stated that the third party supply deal also covers supply of pellets to its former Canadian steel mill, but declined to disclose the details of the same.
Cliff Tobey, president of United Steelworkers of America 2660 welcomed the company’s decision, stating that the news would be exciting for many workers who have been out of work for nearly nineteen months. It is still not clear as to how many workers will get back their jobs, but the company release states that nearly 200 workers will be called back for the startup. The union hopes that the reopening of the plant is a sign of better times ahead, added Tobey. At the time of idling of the mill in May 2015, it had nearly 400 workers. The company had cited several reasons including uncontrolled entry of illegally traded goods into the domestic market and declining steel prices as reasons for the closure.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton stated that the announcement by US Steel is great news not only for Keetac’s workers, but also for the Range and for all of Minnesota.
The company press release noted that favorable developments on steel trade cases have provided some sort of relief to US steel producers. The steel market conditions have also improved, it stated. As a result, the company has decided to speed up the revitalization of its facilities. At the same time, all efforts will be done to improve cost structure at its facilities. Meantime, unexpected outages at several of its facilities have led to sharp decline in steel shipments during Q3 this year. The scheduled maintenance activities and planned outages are feared to impact shipment volume of flat-rolled products during the last quarter of the current year.
The company had recently decided to reopen the idled hot strip mill in Granite City, Illinois. While announcing the decision, the company CEO Mario Longhi had promised increased investment in US steel facilities in light of the proposed changes in regulation and tax laws announced by the American President-elect Donald Trump. The restart is expected to meet the demand from its North American flat-rolled customers and also bring back nearly 220 jobs, out of which nearly 200 would be for unionized workers. The processing work is expected to commence mid-February, said the company.
About US Steel
United States Steel Corporation, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., is an integrated steel producer with major production operations in North America and Central Europe and an annual raw steelmaking capability of 24.4 million net tons. The company manufactures a wide range of value-added steel sheet and tubular products for the automotive, appliance, container, industrial machinery, construction, and oil and gas industries.