Updated 6:15 p.m. | Posted 4:29 p.m.
In a hopeful sign for northern Minnesota's mining industry, U.S. Steel said Thursday it will soon reopen the Keetac Plant in Keewatin after recently securing deals to supply iron ore pellets.
Employee callbacks at Keetac will start in early January. The company said it anticipates production will begin in March.
"This is great news for Keetac's workers, for the Range, and for all of Minnesota," Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement.
The plant was idled in May 2015 amid a global steel glut. Some 400 workers at the plant were affected. U.S. Steel blamed the closure on high levels of imported steel products, illegally traded steel and reduced steel prices.
The shuttering had ripple effects across the region's economy.
The Iron Range has endured more than 2,000 mining layoffs in recent years with likely thousands more laid off in related industries.
But State Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said people on the Iron Range were concerned about Keetac's future.
"We were worried about the place being shut down, we were worried about them never getting back to work," he said, "but it's nice to know everyone's going back to work and that they're going to be selling pellets again."
About 400 employees work at Keetac, although only around 200 were laid off. Others stayed on to maintain the plant, while some were reassigned to Minntac, U.S. Steel's other taconite mine on the Iron Range.
Cliff Tobey, president at United Steelworkers union local 2660, said some mineworkers have left the state to find work. He's not sure how many will return.
"I didn't expect it. It's a very welcome surprise," Tobey said. "As you can imagine we're very happy that U.S. Steel is going to be able to fire Keetac back up again."