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US Steel plant resumes limited operations

FILE - In this Feb. 12 2014 file phoCoast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay 140-foot ice-breaking tug sails through ice covered

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2014 file photo the Coast Guard Cutter Biscayne Bay, a 140-foot ice-breaking tug, sails through ice covered waters toward the shores off Indiana. U.S. Steel said Monday, April 7, 2014 that its largest mill in Gary, Ind., is on limited production after a shortage of vital iron ore due to the ice covering Lake Superior had temporarily shut down its furnaces. (Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Alan Haraf, File)

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Updated: April 8, 2014 9:20AM



GARY — After a weeklong shutdown triggered by ice jams, U.S. Steel has resumed limited production at Gary Works. A spokeswoman said a shipment of iron ore from an idled Detroit mill reached the steel plant Sunday and more ships were on the way.

The steel giant has been hobbled by icy conditions on Lake Superior, preventing shiploads of iron ore — used in the raw steelmaking process— from reaching it from Minnesota mines.

On Monday, company spokeswoman Courtney Boone said Sunday’s ore shipment came from its Great Lake Works plant, near Detroit. An incident at that mill last week prompted the company to halt production and published reports said a large pipe damaged a roof over one of the mill’s furnaces.

Meanwhile, Boone said two vessels are expected in Gary soon from Two Harbors, near Duluth, Minn. She said they’ve already gone through Soo Locks. An additional vessel is also on its way from Great Lakes, she said.

U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard crews are frantically clearing paths for ships on the ice-clogged Great Lakes.

“Nobody’s stockpile situation is very good,” said Glen Nekvasil, spokesman for the Lake Carriers Association. “It’s still very slow sledding.”

Boone would not specify the level of production or estimate the cost of the shutdown to the nation’s largest steelmaker.

A spokesman for the Great Lakes shipping industry says iron ore stockpiles are running low in many places and coal shipments are down 70 percent from a year ago.

An idled blast furnace at the Gary mill is operating again, Boone said. Workers have continued their shifts; Boone said no layoffs have been announced at the plant that employs about 5,800 workers and can produce up to 7.5 million tons of steel annually. Automakers are among the mill’s largest customers.

The frigid winter produced a 6-foot layer of ice on some parts of Lake Superior, the thickest in two decades. The Great Lakes have been nearly completely locked in ice for the first time since 1979. The 91 percent ice cover in early March is the second-highest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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