Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
Laurenco Goncalves’ business is based in Ohio, not Minnesota. But he’s a frequent visitor to the state, thanks to Cliffs’ longtime taconite-mining operations. It’s been a tough few years for Minnesota’s iron-mining industry; a global steel glut has been the chief culprit. But there’s another problem: The Range’s traditional taconite pellets were designed for old-school mills and don’t work in modern electric-arc steel furnaces. Goncalves sees an opportunity to produce direct reduced iron (DRI) pellets, which fuel electric-arc furnaces, at the bankrupt Essar Steel facility in Nashwauk. But Essar isn’t giving up. Will Cliffs get the chance to open a DRI plant? The Range’s long-term viability could be at stake.