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Eye On Mining: Cliffs CEO talks Essar, environment, and future

CHISHOLM, MN — If you talk the talk, you better walk the walk.

That was the message Tuesday from Cleveland-Cliffs Chairman, President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves.

“Cliffs is clean. Cliffs does what I say we will do,” said Goncalves to a packed room at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.

It was just a handful of years ago that Cliffs was headed for bankruptcy, but Goncalves said it’s a different story now as all mines are online and the company is doing well.

During the address Goncalves drove home points about the financial success of the company, the importance of environmental-friendly mining and his hopes for the future of Cliffs projects in Minnesota.That includes the mine life of Hibbing Taconite, which Goncalves said still has several years to go.

“But in mining this doesn’t mean much, because if you don’t plan today for what’s going to happen several years later, you end up not having continuity. We still have continuity. So there’s no risk, at this time, of Hibbing Taconite going out of business. However, the resource is finite, and we need to find a new source of ore for Hibbing Taconite.”

That’s where the topic of the controversial Essar site in Nashwauk entered the conversation.

“I was planning to do an HBI plant. The HBI plant that ended up being built in Toledo. But yeah, we would dig from that ore also to extend the life of Hibbing Taconite. That would have been the easiest solution. Now we need to find a more complicated solution.”

But Goncalves has no plans on giving up on the Essar site until it’s run by Cliffs and Essar is out of the picture.

“I still have hope Governor Walz will fix what was broken by the previous administration. It’s up to him. It’s an easy win.”

Looking ahead, Goncalves said it’s only uphill from here.

“Cleveland-Cliffs going forward will continue to do what we have been doing so far.”

Goncalves added that Cleveland-Cliffs decision to no longer manage Hibbing Taconite was based solely on the fact that it no longer made sense as a minority partner in the Hibbing mine.

ArcelorMittal will take over the management role beginning later this year.

Kristen Vake

Anchor, Reporter

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