Tilden Mine will temporarily close

An aerial view of the Tilden Mine pit and facility in National Mine is seen. (Cliffs Michigan Mining Co. photo)

NATIONAL MINE — Nearly 700 Tilden Mine employees will be laid off by the end of April, according to a Monday afternoon announcement from Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.

The company will temporarily idle production at the Tilden Mine in National Mine as well as the Northshore Mining operation in Minnesota “based on current market conditions,” according to the Monday announcement.

The Tilden Mine operation currently employs approximately 850 people, some of whom will continue working, Cliffs’ communication director Pat Persico said in an email.

“We will maintain our LSI transportation crews and a small staff for care and maintenance of the assets and fire watch, with approximately 160 people,” Persico said. “The remainder of employees will be laid off.”

The Tilden operation will be idled toward the end of this month, the release states. It is expected to reopen in July.

Northshore Mining is expected to be idled in the near future, the release states, and could resume operations in August.

Cliffs will continue to ship iron ore to fulfill its commercial agreements with steel customers, drawing down current inventory levels from the two operations, according to the release.

Cliffs’ CEO Lourenco Goncalves said company officials have evaluated market conditions and are reacting to “the extraordinary disruptions in manufacturing and steel production in North America due to the impact of the COVID-19 market shock.”

“As our steel customers rationalize their operations’ capacities, we made the decision to adjust our iron ore production during the first half of the year and not continue to build additional iron ore inventory until market conditions improve,” Goncalves said in the release. “Once the North American steel market improves, Cleveland-Cliffs will be able to quickly restart and ramp up production.”

In an email statement Tuesday, state Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, said lawmakers recognized the idling of the Tilden Mine could be a possibility when the auto manufacturers announced temporary shutdowns then shifted to making ventilators in late March.

“Understanding the effect this announcement has on other industries like rail, shipping, natural gas and other supply chain industries is a serious economic concern for my district and the entire U.P. economy,” Cambensy said. “State legislators must start immediate discussions with all mining, steel and auto manufacturing stakeholders to coordinate how we can best help and safely get them back in operation in order to put people back to work.”

She said the challenge of balancing the safety of constituents and keeping the economy running has been difficult. But “the precautions taken to stay home and safely distance ourselves from one another to lessen the toll of the Covid-19 virus has paid off for U.P. residents,” Cambensy said.

“We have done a great job of keeping the virus at bay in the U.P. We still must be diligent in doing so. But not finding a way to safely operate and bring back our key industries in the state would also be a serious long-term loss,” she said. “By increasing testing for the Coronavirus in the U.P. workforce who are associated with critical infrastructure industries, maintaining safe distancing and increasing sanitization of these workplaces, we can responsibly handle the virus while keeping our economy moving forward.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at lbowers@miningjournal.net.


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