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Cliffs to restart Cleveland-area blast furnace, stresses value over volume: company

Highlights

Cliffs to restart furnace as it temporarily shuffles Ohio production

No official date on restart, market sources expect February or March

Pittsburgh — Cleveland-Cliffs will restart the No. 6 blast furnace at its steelmaking operations in Cleveland as the company is rotating its Ohio steelmaking amid a planned outage scheduled at its Middletown Works, a spokeswoman for the company said Jan. 22.

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Cliffs is not planning to increase production as the company has enough capacity installed to serve its customers, Cliffs spokeswoman Patricia Persico said. The company is maintaining its focus on value over volume, she added.

Buyers have been clamoring for the Cleveland-area mill to be restarted throughout the fourth quarter and beginning of the year as the single-furnace operating struggled to keep up with resurgent demand.

The furnace slated to restart has an annual rated capacity of 1.37 million mt, while the operating No. 5 blast furnace has an annual capacity of 1.44 million mt, according to the Association for Iron and Steel Technology.

The lack of adequate capacity was keeping customers limited on tonnages available from the mill and delayed shipments, according to many buyers. Some in the market had been notified recently there would be additional tons available in March and April, but the mill refused to comment on how the additional availability would materialize without the restart of the furnace.

Still, other buyers said the steelmaker had notified them that they would only have 40%-50% of their agreed upon contract tonnage available in March.

A source formerly close to the matter noted late last year the furnace was originally scheduled to be restarted in March, but after the acquisition the decision fell to the new ownership.

Cliffs is not releasing the details of the timing for the planned maintenance or restart, Persico said.

Following the iron ore miner's acquisitions of AK Steel and substantially all of ArcelorMittal's US operations in 2020, Cliffs now owns 10 blast furnaces in the US.

"[This] provides flexibility so when have planned maintenance we can rotate to best serve our customers," Persico said, adding that the market can expect to see Cliffs continue to use this strategy in the future.