KEEWATIN, MN-- Keetac workers will soon be back on the job as the taconite mine is getting ready to restart operations.
"I'm very excited for the membership to come back, we have a very young workforce out at Keetac," said U.S. Steelworkers Union President Dan Pierce. "We have a lot of people who've never been through a downturn before so this is their first one."
The mine sat idle for almost six months after the pandemic forced U.S. Steel to shut it down.
"It takes a lot of stress off families to get back to work and do what we do best and that's mining," adds Pierce.
Roughly 400 U.S. Steelworkers union members will be required to pass a return-to-work physical before heading back to work.
Pierce said, "As they go through the dispensary, members could be going back as soon as next week."
Keewatin Mayor Bill Kings said the city's downtown is typically busy with trucks coming and going from Keetac. But this summer it’s been pretty quiet as the mine sat idle.
King adds, with the mine reopening it’s a positive sign for everyone in the community.
"Relief is one feeling, when they're down it affects the whole city, it affects the employees," said King. "A lot of residents work in industries that are impacted by the mine. You know the service industry, the guys who load the products out there."
As COVID-19 cases rise on the Iron Range, U.S. Steelworker Union reps said the pandemic is on their mind.
But they'll be taking precautions and following guidelines.
Pierce said, "Take it day by day and we'll handle the challenges as they come forward."
Keetac is expecting its first pellet shipment to be ready by mid-December.