Cliffs Natural Resources is set to restart operations at its United Taconite mining facility (UTAC) in Minnesota, US, two months earlier than planned after closing last year due to a fall in domestic steel.

Restarting of operations is scheduled for August, having previously been expected in October. It follows a ten-year agreement with US Steel Canada to supply the majority of its iron ore pellet requirements for the third and fourth quarters of this year.

According to Cliffs, the new iron ore pellet tonnage ordered by the steel company will also increase its sales volume for the year.

Accordingly, the company is revising its sales volume guidance for this year to 18 million tonnes from its previous projection of 17.5 million tonnes.

"Demand for high-quality iron ore pellets from a reliable supplier is increasing."

Production volume guidance for this year has also been increased by 500,000t to 16.5 million tonnes.

Cliffs Natural Resources chairman, president and CEO Lourenco Goncalves said: "The vast majority of the steel companies in North America are currently enjoying stronger order books, and their demand for high-quality iron ore pellets from a reliable supplier is increasing.

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"We are very pleased to announce an increase of our pellet supply to US Steel Canada, who became a new Cliffs’ client in 2016."

In November 2015, Cliffs announced temporary idling of the United Taconite and Northshore Mining operations in Minnesota through the first quarter of this year due to high levels of steel imports that hurt demand for its iron-ore pellets.

Cliffs said it will continue to operate Hibbing Taconite in Minnesota, as well as the Tilden and Empire mines in Michigan, at normal rates during that period.

United Taconite comprises an iron ore mine and a pellet processing plant, with around 450 employees.