Cleveland-Cliffs broke ground on its first hot-briquetted iron (HBI) production plant. The company is investing $700 million to build one of the world’s most modern and efficient iron making plants, generating a total of 130 new jobs in Toledo, Ohio, the company said. The Toledo plant will produce 1.6 million metric tons per year (mt/y) of customized high-quality HBI, and will make Cleveland-Cliffs the sole producer of high-quality customized feedstock for the domestic electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmakers located in the Great Lakes region. Cliffs’ domestically produced HBI will supply a Great Lakes market currently estimated at 3 million mt, which is currently supplied exclusively by imports of commercial-quality pig iron and HBI from countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Brazil and Venezuela, among others. Startup of the plant is expected to happen in the summer of 2020.

“Today, we are launching a new era for the iron and steel industry in the United States,” said Lourenco Goncalves, chairman, president and CEO, Cleveland-Cliffs. “We are taking the initial steps to enable EAF steelmakers to produce the specs associated with high-margin steels for sophisticated end markets, such as automotive and others.

For decades, Cleveland-Cliffs has been supplying the American steelmakers in the Great Lakes with customized pellets to feed their blast furnaces. “With the growth in participation of EAFs, it was just a matter of time for Cliffs to become a supplier of these important steelmakers,” Goncalves said. “Its HBI will be for the EAFs the same great feedstock our taconite pellets are, and will continue to be, for our blast furnace clients.”

Cleveland-Cliffs is the largest and oldest independent iron ore mining company in the United States. The company is a major supplier of iron ore pellets to the North American steel industry from its mines and pellet plants located in Michigan and Minnesota. It also operates an iron ore mining complex in Western Australia.