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MARQUETTE COUNTY– Although the Empire Mine remains to be closed, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. CEO Lourenco Goncalves remains positive that the mine will re-open in the future.

“I really believe that it’s a matter of time,” said Goncalves. “That one of these companies that I mentioned in my presentation. They will realize that the shortage of pellets is immense and they have to commit. with a long term contract with Cliffs and that will be the last piece of the puzzle.”

Available iron ore pellets on the global market have been steadily declining over the last decade, and have significantly declined further since the Vale Mine disaster in Brazil in 2015. 

“What I believe is that pellets were such a shortage in the Great Lakes before Vale, the Vale catastrophe,” said Goncalves. “After the Vale catastrophe, it’s even worse. So now we have shortages everywhere and not just here in the Great Lakes. So, if someone believes that they could get pellets from outside the Great Lakes to be supplied  and they could survive, they import pellets from outside, this option is no longer available after Vale.”

Goncalves says that the demonstrated support of the community and State of Michigan plays a meaningful role in the resurgence of the Empire Mine. 

“I can’t think the local officials enough for the great support,” said Goncalves. “I really appreciate everything that they have been doing. And I believe that Michigan is doing all of the right things. Now, we need the clients to cooperate and then we have everything done.”

Politicians are hopeful for the return of the mine as well.

“Even though we don’t have an announcement today, we’re waiting on pellet contracts and some steel companies to step up.” said State Representative Sara Cambensy, 109th District (D). “We are closer than we were a month ago, two months ago.”

“We’ve had a really great opportunity to continue to spread the message that we’ve been mining in the Upper Peninsula for well over 100 years and that we can do it safely and environmentally soundly,” said State Senator Ed McBroom, 38th District (R).

Even though there was no announcement today, Goncalves is confident that Emipre Mine will re-open and produce a high volume of iron ore pellets.

“If Empire is brought back, not if, when Empire is brought back, we will be producing here something like 3.2, 3.3 million metric tons of pellets a year,” said Goncalves.