ArcelorMittal is calling for more federal investment in the Great Lakes to ensure it has clear shipping channels for iron ore and other raw materials it brings by lake freighter to Northwest Indiana's steel mills.
The Luxembourg-based steelmaker is hoping any infrastructure plans will include port and river dredging, lock maintenance and a new icebreaker. ArcelorMittal is calling for specific projects like a new lock to replace the 47-year-old one at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan that gives ore boats safe passage to the steel mills that ring Lake Michigan's southern shore in the Region.
"These projects are critical to navigation routes for water commerce and the movement of goods," ArcelorMittal Americas Senior Director for Government Relations Tom Dower said in a statement. "Waterborne transportation is safe, efficient and the most environmentally friendly method of transport."
The Cleveland-based Lake Carriers Association estimates Great Lakes freighters moved 83.3 million tons of cargo last year. That figure included 44.1 million tons of iron ore for steel production.
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"It's clear that to remain globally competitive, our nation needs greater infrastructure investment — on the highways, byways, waterways and all things in between," Dower said.
He also called for another U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker to help move ore from the mines in Minnesota's Iron Range to Northwest Indiana steel mills.
"While recent winters have been relatively mild, we still lose material due to frozen waterways. In 2013-2014, one of the worst winters in recent history, cancelled cargo totaled 7 million tons, costing the U.S. economy 4,000 jobs and $700 million in economic activity," Dower said. "Only the Coast Guard’s Mackinaw is capable of navigating Lake Superior’s severe ice conditions. This underscores the need for Congress to provide crucial funding for maintaining the Mackinaw and securing an additional ice breaker."