Halverson pleased with Empire Mine agreement

MARQUETTE – Cliffs Natural Resources top official reiterated this morning what many in the community probably felt about Empire Mine staying open for at least two more years.

“It’s good news,” Gary Halverson, Cliffs chief executive officer and president said at a Cliffs community breakfast at the Holiday Inn. “I always like it when we can create employment.”

Cliffs announced Thursday it had entered into a revised commercial agreement with ArcelorMittal USA Inc., to supply iron ore pellets for two more years through the end of January 2017, with an option for another year.

Until the agreement was reached with ArcelorMittal, Empire Mine in Palmer did not have a customer for pellet production beyond this year.

“Empire’s been around for quite a few years,” Halverson said.

Empire Mine produced 3 million tons of magnetite ore in 2013, according to Cliffs Michigan Operations. Tilden Mine in National Mine produced 7.5 million tons of hematite and magnetite ore last year.

The annual rated capacity for the Empire and Tilden mines are 5.5 million tons and 8 million tons, respectively.

Cliffs Michigan has a workforce of 1,590 employees with an annual payroll of $235 million.

Cliffs Michigan also recently invested $1.6 million for the use of compressed natural gas in 112 small fleet vehicles to reduce fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The company expects to reduce annual carbon emissions by 1.7 million pounds.

Halverson stressed the company faces a global market, so he wants Cliffs to be financially stable.

“We know the business runs in cycles, and we want to be able to grow and invest in financial opportunities,” Halverson said.

He said the global steelmaking market outlook shows a projected increase of 4 percent in domestic steel demand.

Halverson also pointed out the company is in a low-end business cycle now, and wants to weather the volatility.

Cliffs Natural Resources is based in Cleveland and focuses on North American and global markets.

“We have 7,000 people in this organization,” Halverson said. “I think it’s a great group of people we have. It is deeply rooted in the U.S. and the world now.”