As the Keetac iron ore pellet plant on Minnesota's Iron Range prepares to resume operations, raw steel production in the United States continues to improve.

Domestic raw steel production for the week ending Nov. 21 was 1,582,000 net tons, a 0.1 percent increase compared to the previous week, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Raw steel production has been on the increase since nosediving earlier this year as consumer spending on cars, trucks and appliances slowed along with the energy and construction sectors. As steel production has increased, so have steel mill and iron ore plant operations. The capability utilization rate of domestic steel mills was 71.5 percent for the week ending Nov. 21. Earlier this year, the capability utilization rate, a measure of steel mill operating rates, fell to nearly 53 percent.

On a year-to date basis, domestic raw steel production was 70,541,000 net tons through Nov. 21, a 16.8 percent decline compared to the same period in 2019 when 86,623,000 net tons were produced at an 80 percent capability utilization rate.

Keetac was idled in May as steel consumption slowed. The 6.0 million ton-per-year United States Steel Corp. facility in Keewatin, Minn., is expected to be

producing iron ore pellets by mid-December.

Six iron ore plants in northeastern Minnesota produce iron ore pellets. The pellets are shipped to steel mills to manufacture steel.