Northshore Mining plant

Newly produced DR-grade pellets are piled up and ready for shipping at the new Northshore Mining plant in Silver Bay.

Northshore Mining in Babbitt and Silver Bay is expected to restart next week, the first of the mines idled by the economic impacts of the coronavirus to return at full capacity.

Cleveland-Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves announced the company’s plans during a quarterly investors call Thursday morning.

He said the restart coincides with the comeback of the Big Three automakers — General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler — whose shutdown forced Cliffs to layoff 470 of its 570 employees in April as COVID-19 started to wreak havoc on the national economy.

Northshore was expected to reopen in August, putting Thursday’s announcement on track.

“Our customers in the automotive sector back to more normal levels of activity, we have resumed production at all of our facilities that were temporarily idled, except the Northshore Mine, which will be back in operation next week,” Goncalves said, adding the Toledo, Ohio-based hot-briquetted iron facility that Northshore will feed should begin production by the end of this year.

Northshore is anticipated supply the plant with 3.5 million tons of pellets.

The pandemic caused three of the six mines on the Iron Range to idle production and a fourth to curb production, resulting in a total of 1,760 layoffs, more than one-third of the 4,000 total mine employees.

U.S. Steel's Minntac in Mountain Iron has brought back most of its 250 laid-off employees as it ramped production back up this month. ArcelorMittal-managed Hibbing Taconite — which U.S. Steel and Cliffs own a share in — is also expected to restart in August.

Keetac in Keewatin has been "indefinitely" idled.

Overall, Cliffs recorded a net loss of $108 million in the second quarter compared to $161 million of profit in the second quarter of 2019.

Forum News Service contributed to this report.

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