Cliffs hanging on, but waiting to reopen plants – by John Myers (Duluth News Tribune – Jan 27, 2016)

Cliffs Natural Resources had a terrible 2015, losing money and slashing production, but the company expects demand for its taconite iron ore to tick up in 2016 and vows to reopen idled operations once sales increase.

Company officials Wednesday said both United Taconite in Eveleth and Forbes and Northshore Mining in Babbitt and Silver Bay will remain closed at least through March but will reopen “sometime this year” as demand from steelmakers for taconite increases.

Hundreds of laid-off workers at each plant are waiting to go back on the job.

“It’s too soon to give you a date, but it will be this year,” Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves told the News Tribune in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We’re seeing a pretty decent pickup in business” among Cliffs’ customers, which should soon translate in more business for the company.

“We are on the upturn. Not back to normal — we still have problems with illegally dumped steel, especially from China… but things are on the right track at this point,” he said.

The Cleveland-based mining company announced its fourth-quarter and year-end results in a teleconference with industry analysts, revealing a net loss of $58 million for the last quarter and $748 million for all of 2015. Revenues for 2015 were $2 billion, down 40 percent from 2014’s $3.4 billion as sales and production both dropped.

The company’s stock closed at $1.49 Wednesday, down three cents for the day, and down from about $10 heading into 2015 and $40 heading into 2014 before the U.S. steel and iron industries began to founder.

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