No Empire Mine resurgence announcement Thursday

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The leader of Cleveland-Cliffs was in Marquette Thursday morning, but there won't be an announcement about the resurgence of the Empire Mine.

At a breakfast and press conference, CEO Lourenco Goncalves said Cliffs is still working on negotiations for Empire.

"I know that you would like to have the announcing of Empire right now I can’t," said Goncalves. "But we are working to bring back Empire."

Last month, Goncalves told company investors that he was close to announcing the resurgence of Empire Mine after Cliffs put the mine into indefinite idle in 2016.

Now, the CEO is saying the time to reopen is dependent on pellet demand from four North American steel making companies.

"They will realize that the shortage of pellets is immense and they'll have to commit to a long term contract with Cliffs and that will be the last piece of the puzzle to enable us to restart Empire," said the CEO.

Goncalves added they will not invest $650 million into Empire until one of the companies commits they will buy pellets through Cliffs. The pellets made at Cliff mines would be rerouted to supply their first HBI plant in Toledo.

"We are starting to produce pellets to accumulate in inventory to be able to start the plant in 2020, so as soon as we start to do that the shortage of blast force pellets will be felt."

For the past year, Cliffs has been looking at investing in Empire or land in Nashwauk, Minnesota, for pellets.

On Thursday, Goncalves wasn’t clear if it’s still one or another, but did say Empire would be a faster process.

"For Empire, other than the three years of digging, we are good."

The newest Director of the Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Northern Michigan office, Mike Prusi, says he will take Thursday's update to Lansing.

"I will be speaking with the governor and informing her and reminding her of the critical nature of the economic project that’s being proposed here and how critical it is for the state to be involved and supportive of mining in the U.P."

Cliffs says the construction for the Toledo HBI plant that began in April is on track for opening in 2020.

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The leader of Cleveland-Cliffs is in Marquette Thursday morning, but there won't be an announcement about the resurgence of the Empire Mine.

At a breakfast and press conference, CEO Lourenco Goncalves said Cliffs is still working on negotiations for Empire. Goncalves says he has full intentions to reopen the mine, which has been idle since 2016.

Goncalves also says he's very appreciative of legislative work being done in Lansing to establish a committee devoted to the future of mining in Michigan.

In February, Goncalves told company investors that he was close to announcing the resurgence of the Empire Mine in Richmond Township.

According to WDIO-TV in Duluth, Goncalves updated Minnesota Iron Range business leaders Tuesday about the potential reopening of Empire.

"I'm not going to invest $650 million dollars into Empire without an offtake agreement," said Goncalves. "I don't have that yet. Especially if I need $650 million dollars to invest here in Nashwauk. I'd prefer to invest it here."

This story will be updated later Thursday. Watch your TV6 News for continuing coverage.



 
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