Keewatin Set to Get a New $150M U.S. Steel Plant

The $150 million direct-reduced-grade pellet factory will be constructed by U.S. Steel at its Keetac iron ore mining and pellet processing complex in Keewatin.

On a Friday morning conference call with investors, U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt made the announcement. The Pittsburgh-based firm said last month that it will construct a DR-grade pellet factory in Minnesota, but it was unclear at the time whether it would be located at Keetac or its Minntac site near Mountain Iron.

Keetac is the ideal option for DR-grade pellet capability because of its high-quality ore body and lengthy mine life, according to Burritt. “At Keetac, we will eventually be able to produce both blast furnace and DR-grade pellets.”

Direct-reduced iron and hot-briquetted iron are produced using DR-grade pellets, which are then used as fuel in electric arc furnaces to produce steel.

According to U.S. Steel, it may eventually utilize the DR-grade pellets to produce direct-reduced iron or sell them to a third party.

During Friday’s call, Rich Fruehauf, U.S. Steel’s chief strategy and sustainability office, stated, “We’ve had great outreach to us after we went public with that. Therefore, there is a great deal of business potential there.

In its announcement from June, the firm stated that it planned to start construction on the facility in the autumn, but it did not offer an updated schedule on Friday.

The news was hailed by Keewatin Mayor Mike LaBine.

Keetac is our main source of income in our community, according to LaBine. “Without that, we’d be in serious pain. It’s wonderful news.

According to LaBine, it may also increase the job security of Keetac employees. In economic downturns, Keetac frequently idles and fires workers first and reactivates operations last.

Everyone hopes that the new facility would result in more steady employment, according to Jake Friend, president of Keewatin’s United Steelworkers Local 2660, which represents Keetac workers.

Surely the news is positive for us, right? That’s pretty much what everyone was thinking, Friend said. It cannot be detrimental to us.

Friend expressed his expectation that the new factory will result in additional jobs at Keetac after just returning from Pittsburgh where he was negotiating the next contract with U.S. Steel. He hasn’t heard any specifics yet, but a meeting with the corporation next week may reveal more.

The St. Louis County Annual Report of the Inspector of Mines states that Keetac shipped 5.4 tons of taconite and employed an average of 403 workers.

Also on Friday, U.S. Steel reported a profit for the second quarter of 2022 of $978 million, or $3.42 per share, as opposed to $1.021 billion, or $3.53 per share, for the comparable period in 2021.

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