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U.S. Steel idles Gary mill due to lack of ore

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 U.S. Steel has temporarily halted steelmaking at its massive northwestern Indiana mill because the ice-covered Great Lakes have cut off its access to vital iron ore and other raw materials.

The company said in a letter to its customers that it has idled the Gary Works complex's blast furnaces and steelmaking operations "due to unforeseen and unprecedented ice conditions on the Great Lakes" after the Midwest's frigid winter, The Times of Munster reported.

"These severe ice conditions have not occurred on the Great Lakes for more than three decades," the letter states.

Treacherous ice covering much of Lake Superior has prevented freighter ships from hauling iron ore — an essential ingredient in steelmaking — from Minnesota's Iron Range to northwestern Indiana steel mills.

The Great Lakes' ice cover hit its highest point in 35 years this winter, and Lake Superior remains more than 80 percent frozen with a 40-inch-thick shelf ice and stacks of ice chunks reaching up to 14 feet tall. U.S. Steel said it is working closely with United States and Canadian governmental authorities "to expedite and obtain priority passage of our raw materials vessels" on the lakes.

The company has informed its customers that it might not be able to fill their steel orders but is trying to find alternative supply paths.

The Gary Works complex is the nation's largest steel mill, stretching seven miles along Lake Michigan and capable of producing 7.5 million net tons of steel a year.

More than 5,800 employees who work at the mill continue reporting to work despite the temporary suspension of steelmaking operations.

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  • It's Still Not Right
    My nephew, 25, works at one of the mills in Gary (I won't say which) and makes a stratospheric amount of money for a kid with no college and no debt. He jokes about how they watch Net Flicks on their phones or sleep when there's nothing to do, all on the clock. We're happy for him, of course, but when the rest of us in his family ask him why they aren't fired, his response is: "they can't do anything to us -- we're union".
  • OR it might be the fact that US Steel probably cannot temporarily lay off its union members and the fact a college kid could make more in three months than someone could now in 6 months. Inflated salaries, unsustainable work rules is what killed the American manufacturing coupled with the rise of lower cost alternatives. We have to play in the international markets. It is part of life. Paying someone 20+ dollars an hour to screw panels on a stove is not a sustainable rate of pay in a world economy.
  • KUDOS
    Gary, Indiana - town of my birth The last sentence is interesting: More than 5,800 employees who work at the mill continue to report to work. Kudos to US Steel for choosing NOT to temporarily lay-off idled workers. Unfortunately for the Gary economy, when I was in college, US Steel had more than 30,000 employees at the Gary works. Now it is 5800. Other peripheral companies (Tin Mill, General Motors Budd Stamping plant, American Bridge) which USED the steel employed thousands more, but have all since closed. College kids could work at the Gary steel works during the summers and make MORE in 3 months than a lot of workers today in this country with families make in 6 months. The GOP will blame the demise on unions, but in fact it is the result of American trade policies in the 1980s which allowed the importation of tariff free low-cost (and lesser quality) steel, and the dumping of steel by foreign producers into the US market at below-market prices. The American steel industry has never recovered. Free trade is NOT always FREE, when American workers lose their jobs.

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