DULUTH — Cliffs Natural Resources is one of the mining mainstays on the Iron Range.
The company, formerly known as Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., operates three taconite plants on the Range and started mining in Minnesota in 1902.
From the standpoint of operations, Cliffs-run facilities last year had an economic impact of almost $1 billion in the region, while employing 1,876 workers. Cliffs operates the Hibbing Taconite plant, while owning about 23 percent. The company owns the other two plants, United Taconite and Northshore Mining, outright:
• Pickands Mather & Co. was purchased in 1986, giving Cliffs part ownership and operations management of Hibbing Taconite. ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel Canada are the other owners.
• Northshore Mining of Babbitt and Silver Bay was originally Reserve Mining, then was bought by Cyprus Minerals in 1989, and became the sole property of Cliffs in 1994.
• United Taconite of Eveleth and Forbes originally was EVTAC, and was idled in 2003. Assets were bought then by Cliffs and partner Laiwu Steel Group of China, but Cliffs acquired complete ownership in 2008.
The company has shown leadership in many areas in the region, including in environmental, safety and community efforts, said Sandy Karnowski, Cliffs public affairs manager in Minnesota.
“I think we’ve evolved over the years,” she said.
The company has led in efforts to curb or reduce its impact on the environment, with mercury, selenium and nitrous oxide emissions control, water management, and participation in regulatory and policy formation with its operations, a company handout noted.
The involvement between the company, employees and communities goes several ways.
“Our workforce goes above and beyond,” Karnowski explained, “volunteering in many areas.”
Community impact is also a standard for Cliffs, totaling $767,000 last year: $174,000 in mine contributions, such as training equipment simulators; Cliffs Foundation projects, $172,000; and charitable efforts with United Way,$420,000.
Another interaction Cliffs does almost gives back by itself, with the company’s support and collaboration with area high schools and community colleges for educating and training students to join the mining industry’s workforce.
“We’ve found that program is very beneficial,” Karnowski said. “It’s been very successful.”
The economic portion of Cliffs’ involvement also is shown in the taxes paid, services and supplies purchased, and wages and benefits.
“Our reputation is well known in the area,” she added. “Our commitment in providing good-paying jobs in a cyclical [economic] environment.”
A lot of support comes back from communities, with partnership on some projects as well.
Although Northshore Mining idled two furnaces last year and 84 employees were laid off due to a lack of customers for that production, United Taconite and Hibbing Taconite are at or near full pellet production.