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Jonathan Holmes, general manager of ArcelorMittal Minorca mine near Virginia, points out differing depths of the taconite facility's Laurentian mine pit. (2007 file/News Tribune)

Iron Range mine's restart date pushed back two months

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DULUTH - Workers at ArcelorMittal's Minorca Mine have been informed that production of iron ore pellets there will resume Oct. 1, two months later than earlier expected.

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The taconite-processing facility located just north of Virginia earlier was expected to restart Saturday. Now, with its restart date pushed back to Oct. 1, many of the operation's 300 employees probably will return to work Sept. 27.

During the extended shutdown, the mine is expected to continue to provide employment for about half the workforce, said Ray Pierce, president of United Steelworkers Local 6115, which represents most of the employees of the plant. These workers are using the shutdown as an opportunity to tackle a number of maintenance tasks.

Most of the Minorca workers now off the job earlier stepped forward to accept voluntary layoffs, enabling often more junior employees to maintain their employment and benefits.

"We weren't surprised," Pierce said of the delayed restart at Minorca, in light of news from other mines.

Cliffs Natural Resources recently announced plans to extend a temporary shutdown at Hibbing Taconite Co. through the first quarter of next year. And U.S. Steel Corp. still has announced no specific plans to restart Keewatin Taconite.

Pierce said he remains optimistic the October restart date at Minorca will hold.

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