End of an Empire

ISHPEMING – Wednesday marked the end of an era for the Empire Mine. Cliffs Natural Resources officials have confirmed that it was the last day of pellet production before the mine goes into an indefinite idle.

An estimated 400 jobs have been eliminated as a result of the shutdown.

The United Steelworkers 4950 posted a copy of a layoff notice from Cliffs to 266 employees dated Aug. 28.

Patricia Persico, director of Global Communications for Cliffs, confirmed that company employees will work until the end of August to prepare the facility for shut down.

Persico said contracted laborers will come in to finish the process of mothballing, or preserving, the mine, which should be complete by October.

Persico said within weeks of the indefinite shutdown being completed, a berm will be created around the property that will be fenced and gated for safety.

“Once the cold idle is in place, access to the facility will be restricted,” Persico said. “We will secure the plant for future optionality.”

A letter from Cliffs director of labor relations to the Michigan Workforce Development Agency in April cites the expiration of the Cliffs mining partnership with Arcelor Mittal Steel USA and the limited availability of economic ore reserves at the pit as reasons that mining at the Empire Mine is no longer viable.

Persico said Cliffs Michigan Operations had 1,170 employees on the payroll, a combined total of salary and hourly for both Tilden and Empire prior to the closure of the Empire Mine.

Cliffs President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves has issued assurances in the past that the Tilden Mine has enough ore to operate for years.

There is plenty underground over there, beautiful performance, great management, a great work force,? Goncalves said.