11 / 3
      12 / 4
      4 / -5

      Dim future for Empire Mine?

      The future is not bright for the Empire Mine on the Marquette Iron Range. As it stands right now, the Empire Mine will cease operations at the end of 2014.

      That is when their partnership with ArcelorMittal is set to expire. Mittal is the largest steelmaker in the world.

      It has been known for a while that this agreement would end at the end of 2014 , said Dale Hemmila, Cliffs Natural Resources director of public affairs in North America. He said people were holding out hope that a deal could be reached to extend the life of the facility.

      "We've been saying for several years that Empire is challenged," said Hemmila. "Certainly, as you look at a mine that's this old, it's 50 years old this year, it shouldn't come as a surprise that things are more difficult to mine and process for sure."

      Cliffs also owns the Tilden Mine, which is located just a few miles to the west of the Empire. It's unknown how many jobs could be transferred there from the Empire.

      "The Tilden Mine does have an operating plan that takes us out roughly over the next 30 years or so, so it's not like mining is going away, or the shipping," Hemmila said. "We'll still be using the railroad and the docks here for sure."

      "I guess you never say never, but at this point, we have to operate with what we know here in 2013," he added.

      2012 was a rough year for Cliffs. Their revenue decreased by 11 percent from the previous year. That decline is due in large part to the drop in the global price of iron ore.