- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

HOYT LAKES, Minn. (AP) - More layoffs were announced Tuesday on northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, this time at Mesabi Nugget in Hoyt Lakes and Mining Resources in Chisholm.

Their Fort Wayne, Indiana-based parent company, Steel Dynamics Inc., said in a statement that the operations are being idled effective immediately, meaning the loss of about 200 positions for at least two years. The steelmaker said it would retain “a small group” of employees to maintain those facilities and offer jobs to laid-off workers at other Steel Dynamics locations and subsidiaries if positions are available.

CEO Mark D. Millett cited “an extreme decrease” in prices for pig iron, which is what the two operations produce.

“We currently do not see strong drivers that would suggest a reversal of this trend for some time,” he said. “Our Minnesota operations were intended to serve as a hedge to high pig iron and scrap prices. While this lower raw material cost environment certainly advantages our steel operations, it has resulted in an uneconomic situation for our iron nugget operations.”

Mining Resources produces iron concentrate from taconite mine waste to feed Mesabi Nugget, which produces high-purity iron nuggets. Steel Dynamics is one of the largest domestic steel producers and metals recyclers with sales of $8.8 billion in 2014 and over 7,700 employees.

Other Iron Range operations already have cut nearly 1,300 jobs this year. U.S. Steel said in March that it would idle part of its Minntac plant and its Keetac plant, resulting in nearly 1,150 layoffs. Cliffs Natural Resources this month said it would eliminate about 100 employees at Hibbing Taconite, Northshore Mining and United Taconite. Magnetation shut down its Keewatin plant in February, cutting about 20 jobs.

Domestic steel companies say they have been grappling with cheap steel imports and higher iron ore production in Brazil and Australia.

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