timberland splitrock boot Cliffs weighs options for expansion
MARQUETTE A proposed Cleveland Cliffs Inc. expansion in its mining operations could mean good things for Marquette County and the Empire Mine.
The proposed expansion could herald the addition of up to 900 high paying jobs in Marquette County, Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves told about 100 community leaders at the company annual breakfast on Friday.
would bring a lot of jobs to the area because we will be restarting a pellet plant, a pellet plant that is totally shut down at this point, Goncalves said. are talking double the number of people employed here in Michigan. The Empire is not operating, but the Empire is not dead. We can bring operations back from idle, anytime we choose to do so.
But the company still needs to decide which state to expand in Michigan or Minnesota. A decision, Goncalves said, Cliffs would likely make before the end of the year.
The company expects to be the sole producer of hot briquetted iron, or HBI, in the Great Lakes region by 2020, with the development of its first production plant in Toledo, Ohio.
But Cliffs needs enough stock to supply the electric arc furnaces in the the proposed $700 million HBI plant.
Goncalves said Michigan operations have an advantage over the proposed Minnesota expansion.
can get things accomplished here a lot faster because of established things. We have a mine here, we have a pit we have everything. We even have a pellet plant at that site, Goncalves said.
As of the fourth quarter of 2017 Cliffs has 100 percent ownership of both the Tilden and Empire mines, he said.
The biggest obstacle the removal of a significant amount of rock or soil covering the mineral deposit, known as overburden has the potential to cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the proposed Minnesota operation, he said.
In Minnesota, the company has acquired more than half of the available land for a potential mining operation at a site in Nashwauk, Goncalves said, but the area holds a confusing mix of state owned and privately owned mineral rights.
cheaper to go through the Minnesota route, Goncalves said. it longer in terms of time to execute in Minnesota. Especially because there not a lot of consensus in terms of what they want.
The Nashwauk mining operation would be less expensive because the ore is closer to the surface, Goncalves said, but the permitting process in Minnesota could take up to five years,.
cost to implement Nashwauk is a lot less; however, time is the only thing you can recoup. Even money you can recoup, but time you cannot, he said.
Ultimately, Goncalves said a show of support from local residents and communities might slant Cliffs decision in Michigan favor.
Michigan demonstrates that they have a resolve, a unified resolve behind Cliffs growing mining here, we will be here, Goncalves said. I don feel like I have that type of support in Minnesota, and that a lot more important to me than just dollars. Rep. Sara Cambensy, D Marquette, who attended the breakfast, said the announcement gives her hope.
still have a $1 billion industry in our backyard. I think some regional economic developers look at mining as an industry of the past, instead of seeing the opportunities in clean, 21st century mining technology, Cambensy said. and how it could spur further regional growth and development. at the Tilden Mine should continue for decades, regardless of where Cliffs decides to expand, Goncalves said.