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Cleveland-Cliffs to idle Indiana Harbor blast furnace

Aerial shot of Indiana Harbor Works in East Chicago. (photo courtesy of Cleveland-Cliffs)

EAST CHICAGO, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Ohio-based Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. (NYSE: CLF) is planning to indefinitely idle one of the two remaining blast furnaces at its Indiana Harbor Works steel mill in East Chicago. Despite the move, the steelmaker says no Hoosier jobs will be affected.

The normal operations of Indiana Harbor Works, including two steel shops, a hot strip mill and finishing facilities, will continue, according to the company. The nearby Riverdale Works will also maintain its normal operations.

Cleveland-Cliffs says the decision to idle Indiana Harbor #4 is the result of operational improvements such as adding hot-briquetted iron to the blast furnaces and maximizing the use of scrap in basic oxygen furnaces.

The company’s last remaining blast furnace, Indiana Harbor #7, will be the sole supplier for Riverdale Works. Cleveland-Cliffs Chief executive Officer Lourenco Goncalves says the employees from IH#4 will be reassigned to other positions.

“By concentrating the operation and maximizing productivity at IH#7 we are improving our carbon footprint and, at the same time, lowering our cost structure for the same level of steel production and shipments,” said Goncalves. “Most importantly, as we have enough job openings on site for all impacted employees, we are now able to fill several available job openings at Indiana Harbor Works with the current workforce of IH#4.”

The IH#4 furnace is capable of producing 2.1 million net tons of hot metal per year. The company says it expects to cease operations at the furnace within the next two months.

Additionally, the steelmaker says it plans to increase its market base prices for its carbon hot rolled, cold rolled and coated steel products by a minimum of $50 per net ton.

Cleveland-Cliffs adds it does not expect any change to its steel shipment volumes for this year as a result of idling the blast furnace.