Cleveland-Cliffs to shutter West Virginia tin plant and lay off 900 after tariff ruling

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., center, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, right, speak with Cleveland-Cliffs CEO Lourenco Goncalves during a visit to Cleveland-Cliffs in Weirton, W.Va., Sept. 26, 2023. Cleveland-Cliffs announced Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, that it is shutting down the northern West Virginia tin production facility indefinitely and plans to lay off 900 workers after the International Trade Commission voted against imposing tariffs on tin imports. (Craig Howell /The Weirton Daily Times via AP)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Cleveland-Cliffs announced Thursday that it is shutting down a northern West Virginia tin production facility indefinitely and plans to lay off 900 workers after the International Trade Commission voted against imposing tariffs on tin imports.

The trade commission ruled earlier this year that no anti-dumping and countervailing duties will be imposed on tin products from Canada, China and Germany because those imports do not sufficiently harm the U.S. steel industry. The U.S. Department of Commerce had determined those products were sold in the United States at less than fair value and subsidized by the Chinese government.

The trade commission also voted to stop a duty investigation into tin products shipped from South Korea.

Anti-dumping and countervailing duties are levied against foreign governments that subsidize products so they can be sold below cost.

Cleveland-Cliffs said it will offer either severance packages or opportunities for workers in Weirton to be relocated to its other facilities. The Cleveland-based company employs 28,000 workers in the United States and Canada.

Weirton is a city of 19,000 residents along the Ohio River about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Pittsburgh.

Cleveland-Cliffs Chairman, President and CEO Lourenco Goncalves said the company and the United Steelworkers union “fought tirelessly” to keep the Weirton plant open.

“In what was our final effort to maintain tinplate production here in America, we proved that we are forced to operate on an uneven playing field, and that the deck was stacked in favor of the importers,” Goncalves said in a statement. The trade commission ruling was shocking and made it “impossible for us to viably produce tinplate.”

Goncalves added that the trade commission’s decision “is a travesty for America, middle-class jobs, and our critical food supply chains. This bad outcome requires better and stronger trade laws. We will continue to work tirelessly with our Congressional champions who fought with us in this case to improve the trade laws so that the American industry and our workers are not left behind.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the trade commission turned “a blind eye” to Cleveland-Cliffs workers.

The plant’s closing “is an absolute injustice not only to American workers, but to the very principle of fair competition, and it will undoubtedly weaken our economic and national security,” Manchin said.

The announcement is the latest blow for the steel industry in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. In 2022, Cleveland-Cliffs announced the closing of a coke-making facility that employed about 280 workers in Follansbee.

Cleveland-Cliffs’ tin facility in Weirton was once a nearly 800-acre property operated by Weirton Steel, which employed 6,100 workers in 1994 and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003.

International Steel Group bought Weirton Steel in federal bankruptcy court in 2003. The property changed hands again a few years later, ultimately ending up a part of Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, which sold its U.S. holdings to Cleveland-Cliffs in 2020.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said she was “devastated” by the Cleveland-Cliffs announcement and that the trade commission’s move to reverse the Commerce Department’s decision on tin product duties ‘remains concerning and will be examined thoroughly.”