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Cliffs to build US DRI plant

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Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. plans to go solo in 2018 with plans to build a direct-reduced iron (DRI) plant in the United States, the company’s top executive said.

The planned facility—likely to be the first of a series throughout the U.S.—will have an annual capacity of 1.5 million tons, company chairman, chief executive officer and president Lourenco Goncalves said during an earnings call April 27.

The Cleveland-based iron ore miner and pellet producer will feed the plant with 2 million tons of direct-reduced (DR) grade pellets from its own operations, he said. Cliffs has said it sells DR-grade pellets to Charlotte, N.C-based Nucor Corp. as well as to Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal SA’s Canadian operations.

Cliffs primary market remains blast-furnace pellets for integrated steelmakers, Goncalves said. But the company’s push into DRI should allow it to play a bigger role in a U.S. market increasingly dominated by mini-mills, which  are hungry for more virgin iron units, he said.

Cliffs priority for 2017, nonetheless, is to pay down debt, so ground won’t be broken for a DRI project until 2018, Goncalves said. The company is already in negotiations, however, with two suppliers of DRI plants, he said.


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