MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Cliffs Natural Resources says it will restart operations in August at its United Taconite mining facilities on northeastern Minnesota's Iron Range, two months earlier than previously announced.

Cleveland-based Cliffs announced the early restart Thursday after reaching a contract with U.S. Steel Canada to supply the majority of its iron ore pellet requirements for the second half of this year. That follows a 10-year supply agreement announced last week with another major steelmaker, ArcelorMittal, which had led the mining company to plan on reopening United Taconite in October.

United Taconite employs about 450 people at its mine in Eveleth and processing plant in nearby Forbes. They were idled in August amid a global steel industry slump blamed on Chinese dumping that led to more than 2,000 Iron Range layoffs.