Six hundred employees at Cliffs Natural Resources in Marquette County will be out of work come spring.
The news came early on Monday after one of the company's customers announced a shutdown of a blast furnace for maintenance in 2012. As a result, the company projects 2.7 million tons of ore for 2012, just over half of the 4.6 million tons produced in 2011.
According to Cliffs, employees at the Empire Mine will be affected during the maintenance period, which could take several months. The company employs a total of 1,800 workers.
"They're actually taking one of the blast furnaces down and doing some maintenance on it, and from time to time, that has to be done just like every other facility," said Dale Hemmila of Cliffs Public Affairs. "Generally, the blast furnaces can last quite a long time without the maintenance, but eventually it has to be done."
The company expects the layoffs to be temporary.