Empire Mine

MARQUETTE, MI--     The contract between United Steelworkers and Cliffs Natural Resources has been extended 30 days. 

It was set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. 

Officials say both sides agreed to include a rolling 168-hour extension if negotiations go past the 30-day period. 

USW Local 4974 covers workers at the Tilden mine, and Local 4950 covers workers at the Empire mine.  In a negotiations update union officials say progress has been made on some issues, but the parties remain deeply divided on others. 

The contract extension begins Thursday.  

PALMER, MI--   About 350 workers at the Empire mine are off until the fall. 

Cliffs Natural Resources says the workers are laid off until October while the mine is temporarily shut down.  Officials attribute the stoppage to historic levels of foreign steel imports, which represent about 34 percent of the finished steel market.

Laid-off employees will be able to file for unemployment benefits.

Cliffs says it’s monitoring the steel market.  If conditions improve the Empire may reopen sooner.

MARQUETTE, MI--   WE Energies has officially asked the Midwestern grid operator—MISO—to terminate System Support Resource payments for the Presque Isle Power Plant. 

PALMER, MI--   Cliffs Natural Resources has entered into an agreement with one of its customers that will extend the life of the Empire Mine in Palmer. 

Cliffs announced Thursday a revised contract with ArcelorMittal USA for an additional two years through the end of January, 2017, with a mutual option to extend for a third year. 

PALMER, MI--   The Empire mine is back up and running.  

Cliffs Natural Resources announced Wednesday that iron ore pellet production has resumed after a December 2 fire severely damaged a limestone feeding system. 

The system included mining equipment and conveyors that feed crushed limestone into the empire concentrator plant.  The limestone is added during the pellet-making process.  Because of the severity of the fire the limestone is now being taken into the plant with front end loaders. 

PALMER, MI--   A fire at the Empire mine in Marquette County has been contained.  

Jennifer Huetter is a spokesperson for Cliffs Natural Resources.  She says the fire broke out just before 6 a.m. Monday on a conveyor belt.

“And it is a limestone feeding system which basically includes equipment and conveyors," she says, "and that’s the way that we get our crushed limestone into the Empire concentrator.”

Empire employees were evacuated from the mine.  No injuries were reported.

Officials say the fire was isolated and controlled. 

PALMER, MI--   The Empire Mine’s days are numbered.  

That’s according to Cliffs Natural Resources Chief Executive Joseph Carrabba, who says its operations will decrease in coming months and cease altogether in late 2014 or early 2015. 

Carraba spoke about the plans Tuesday morning in Marquette.

The Empire opened in 1963 and has produced 260 million tons of iron ore.  Carrabba says the mine has been a "huge success" but says its viability is declining. He says the closing “will be a very progressive process."

Copyright © 2011 Cliffs Natural Resources Inc

ASSOCIATED PRESS - Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. says it plans to idle its Empire Mine in Michigan and to cut production at its Northshore mining operations in Minnesota, affecting about 625 jobs.

In a statement Monday, Cliffs also says it plans to delay portions of its Bloom Lake mine expansion in Quebec. The Cleveland-based company cites declining demand from U.S. steelmakers for iron ore.

ISHPEMING, MI--   Cliffs Natural Resources has named an Ishpeming man assistant general manager of its Michigan operations. 

Chad Asgaard will be responsible for maintenance and operations at the Tilden and Empire mines’ processing plants. 

Asgaard has been with cliffs for 15 years, serving most recently as area manager of the Empire plant.  He graduated from Ishpeming High School, received a mechanical engineering technology degree from Northern Michigan University, and earned a Master’s degree in business from the University of Phoenix.

PALMER, MI--   Officials with Cliffs Natural Resources are investigating the cause of a power outage at the Empire Mine. 

They say the outage happened Friday at the main substation, which led to a loss of electricity to the mining area and plant.  The failure also produced a small fire, which was extinguished by the Richmond Township Fire Department.

Officials say operations at the Tilden mine were not affected.

In other Cliffs news, LS&I Railroad is removing an existing railroad crossing on County Road 550 this week and replacing it with a new crossing.