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ArcelorMittal idling #4 blast furnace at Indiana Harbor after auto shutdown in coronavirus response
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ArcelorMittal idling #4 blast furnace at Indiana Harbor after auto shutdown in coronavirus response

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ArcelorMittal idling #4 blast furnace at Indiana Harbor after auto shutdown

The ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor steel mill is pictured. 

EAST CHICAGO — ArcelorMittal is idling the #4 Blast Furnace at its ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor steel mill after auto plants nationwide shut down for a deep cleaning to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Much of the steel made at the mill in East Chicago and along Northwest Indiana's lakeshore ends in cars, trucks and SUVs. Industry analysts estimate as much as 50% of the business at integrated mills like ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor comes from the automotive industry.

The Detroit 3 automakers are shuttering their plants through March 29 to clean them to protect workers from COVID-19. Honda, Subaru and other foreign automakers also temporarily closed their U.S. plants in response to the global pandemic for which there is not yet a cure.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted ArcelorMittal USA’s key use markets. In response to this, we are adapting our capacity to meet changing demand while maintaining the flexibility of our operations," ArcelorMittal spokesman William Steers said. "As a result, ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor has begun preparations for a safe and orderly blow down of IH #4 blast furnace with necessary precaution to preserve the asset for future production."

The company would not say exactly how many jobs would be affected. 

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"ArcelorMittal USA plans to work with the USW to minimize impact on our workforce for the duration of the outage by finding available opportunities for displaced workers in other areas of our operations," Steers said. "Our employees are our greatest asset and their health and safety is our top priority. During this time we continue to be committed to protecting the well-being of our employees, contractors, vendors and customers to ensure the continuity and sustainability of our business and communities."

The idling could potentially just be the start as the coronavirus crisis unfolds, he said.

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"ArcelorMittal will continue to engage with our customers in understanding the new market realities resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, which may require additional capacity optimization to align our production with end use demand," Steers said.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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