U.S. Steel’s Keetac mine in Keewatin will re-open in 2017 after a closure exceeding 19 months, the integrated mining and steelmaking corporation announced Thursday.
The long-time pellet supplier for U.S. Steel’s Granite City, Ill., steelmaking plant, Keetac’s re-opening is being fueled by third-party supply contracts, the corporation said in its announcement. Employee callbacks will begin in early January, and the company anticipates production will begin in March. About 200 workers initially will return to their jobs.
Like United Taconite and North Shore Mining, Keetac was shuttered when the price of taconite pellets plummetet in 2015. Beyond pellet oversupply, the market also was flooded with imports, reducing demand for domestically produced steel. The downturn was particularly difficult in Keewatin, where Magnetation also shuttered a plant. U.S. Steel said the conditions were triggered by “unfair trade and reduced steel prices.”
Over time, however, the U.S. government imposed sanctions to pare the unfair trade, allowing the iron mining industry to gradually recover.
“The collective voice of American workers to combat illegal steel dumping is producing results,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a prepared statement. “As we head into the new year, this announcement generates both a renewed confidence for the U.S. Steel industry to bring back more jobs and a renewed commitment for those of us who continue to fight afor a level playing field for American workers. We cannot rest until every worker is back on the job."
Along with U.S. Sen. Al Franken and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, she had lobbied White House officials to step in and impose trade sanctions against foreign violators.
“We are grateful to those who have supported Minnesota’s iron mining industry over the past years,” said Iron Mining Association of Minnesota President Kelsey Johnson. The IMA represents mining companies and numerous vendors that serve the industry. “Legislative and community support through environmental, energy, and other important issues are a key piece of getting this important industry back on its feet.”
The Keetac Plant has an annual production capacity of approximately six million net tons.
U.S. Steel did not identify the third-party pellet buyers.