SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
ý ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2014
¨ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to .
Commission File Number: 1-8944
CLIFFS NATURAL RESOURCES INC.
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)
(State or Other Jurisdiction of
Incorporation or Organization)
200 Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)
Registrant’s Telephone Number, Including Area Code: (216) 694-5700
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of Each Class
Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered
Common Shares, par value $0.125 per share
New York Stock Exchange
Depositary Shares, each representing a 1/40th ownership interest in a share of 7.00% Series A Mandatory Convertible Preferred Stock, Class A
New York Stock Exchange
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. YES ý NO ¨
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. YES ¨ NO ý
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. YES ý NO ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). YES ý NO ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer ý Accelerated filer ¨ Non-accelerated filer ¨ Smaller reporting company ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). YES ¨ NO ý
As of June 30, 2014, the aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common shares held by non-affiliates of the registrant, based on the closing price of $15.05 per share as reported on the New York Stock Exchange — Composite Index, was $2,397,182,297 (excluded from this figure is the voting stock beneficially owned by the registrant’s officers and directors).
The number of shares outstanding of the registrant’s common shares, par value $0.125 per share, was 153,279,552 as of February 23, 2015.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s proxy statement for its 2015 annual meeting of shareholders are incorporated by reference into Part III.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Executive Officers of the Registrant
Unresolved Staff Comments
Mine Safety Disclosures
Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Selected Financial Data
Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk
Financial Statements and Supplementary Data
Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure
Controls and Procedures
Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance
Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters
Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence
Principal Accountant Fees and Services
Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules
The following abbreviations or acronyms are used in the text. References in this report to the “Company,” “we,” “us,” “our” and “Cliffs” are to Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. and subsidiaries, collectively. References to “A$” or “AUD” refer to Australian currency, “C$” to Canadian currency and “$” to United States currency.
Abbreviation or acronym
Anglo Ferrous Amapá Mineração Ltda. and Anglo Ferrous Logística Amapá Ltda.
Anglo American plc
Accumulated Postretirement Benefit Obligation
ArcelorMittal (as the parent company of ArcelorMittal Mines Canada, ArcelorMittal USA and Dofasco, as well as, many other subsidiaries)
ArcelorMittal USA LLC (including many of its North American affiliates, subsidiaries and representatives. References to ArcelorMittal USA comprise all such relationships unless a specific ArcelorMittal USA entity is referenced)
Accounting Standards Codification
Barrick Gold Corporation Inc.
Best Available Retrofit Technology
The Bloom Lake Iron Ore Mine Limited Partnership
Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC
Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (Canada)
Cost and freight
Cliffs Chromite Ontario Inc.
Canadian Industrial Relations Board
Cliffs Logan County Coal LLC
Clean Water Act
Federal Water Pollution Control Act
Cliffs Chromite Far North Inc.
Entity previously known as Spider Resources Inc.
Cliffs Chromite Ontario Inc.
Entity previously known as Freewest
Canadian National Railway Company
Cockatoo Island Joint Venture
Chief Operating Decision Maker
Compensation and Organization Committee
Administrative Order by Consent
Consolidated Thompson Iron Mining Limited (now known as Cliffs Québec Iron Mining ULC)
Cliffs Québec Iron Mining ULC (formerly known as Cliffs Québec Iron Mining Limited)
Cross-State Air Pollution Rule
Depreciation, depletion and amortization
U.S. Department of Environment Protection
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. 2014 Nonemployee Directors’ Compensation Plan
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
ArcelorMittal Dofasco Inc.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization
Empire Iron Mining Partnership
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Earnings per share
Esperance Port Sea and Land
Enterprise Risk Management
Essar Steel Algoma Inc.
Essar Sale Agreement
2002 Pellet Sale and Purchase Agreement as amended
Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended
Financial Accounting Standards Board
Federal Implementation Plan
U.S. Federal Mine Safety and Health Act 1977, as amended
Abbreviation or acronym
Freewest Resources Canada Inc. (now known as Cliffs Chromite Ontario Inc.)
Accounting principles generally accepted in the United States
Hibbing Taconite Company
Amended and Restated Cliffs 2007 Incentive Equity Plan, as amended
INR Energy, LLC
U.S. Internal Revenue Service
Ispat Inland Steel Company
Collective term for the operating deposits at Koolyanobbing, Mount Jackson and Windarling
Lower of cost or market
London Interbank Offered Rate
LTV Steel Mining Company
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Million British Thermal Units
Moody's Investors Service, Inc., a subsidiary of Moody's Corporation, and its successors
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Management Performance Incentive Plan
Michigan Public Service Commission
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
Mandatory redeemable preference shares
Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Australia)
U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration
Megawatts per hour
National Ambient Air Quality Standards
National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement
Nevada Department of Environmental Protection
Northshore Mining Company
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, authorized by the U.S. Clean Water Act
Natural Resource Damages
New Source Performance Standards
New York Stock Exchange
Oak Grove Resources, LLC
Other comprehensive income (loss)
Other postretirement benefits
Medical premium maximums
Proven and Probable
Projected benefit obligation
Pinnacle Mining Company, LLC
Pluton Resources Limited
Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act
Ring of Fire properties
Black Thor, Black Label and Big Daddy chromite deposits in Ontario, Canada
Return on asset
Rio Tinto Working Group
Standard & Poor's Rating Services, a division of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC, a subsidiary of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., and its successors
Stock Appreciation Rights
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Severstal Dearborn, LLC
Silver Bay Power
Silver Bay Power Company
Abbreviation or acronym
State Implementation Plan
Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act
Sonoma Coal Project
Spider Resources Inc. (now known as Cliffs Chromite Far North Inc.)
Separate Trading of Registered Interest and Principal of Securities
Substitute Rating Agency
A "nationally recognized statistical rating organization" within the meaning of Section 3 (a)(62) of the Exchange Act, selected by us (as certified by a certificate of officers confirming the decision of our Board of Directors) as a replacement agency of Moody's or S&P, or both of them, as the case may be
Tilden Mining Company
Total Maximum Daily Load
Total Reportable Incident Rate
Total Shareholder Return
United Mineworkers of America
United Taconite LLC
1994 Uninsured Pensioner Mortality Table
United States of America
U.S. Steel Canada
U.S. Steel Canada Inc., a subsidiary of United States Steel Corporation
Companhia Vale do Rio Doce
Voluntary Employee Benefit Association trusts
2005 Voluntary NonQualified Deferred Compensation Plan, as amended
Volume Weighted Average Price
Wabush Mines Joint Venture
ArcelorMittal Weirton Inc.
Wugang Canada Resources Investment Limited, a subsidiary of Wuhan Iron and Steel (Group) Corporation
Zamin Ferrous Ltd
The UMWA 1974 Pension Plan
2008 Director's Plan
Nonemployee Directors’ Compensation Plan, as amended and restated 12/31/2008
2012 Equity Plan
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. Amended and Restated 2012 Incentive Equity Plan
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. traces its history back to 1847. Today, we are a leading mining and natural resources company. We are a major supplier of iron ore pellets to the North American steel industry from our mines and pellet plants located in Michigan and Minnesota. Cliffs also produces low-volatile metallurgical coal in the U.S. from its mines located in Alabama and West Virginia. Additionally, Cliffs operates an iron ore mining complex in Western Australia and owns two non-operating iron ore mines in Eastern Canada. Driven by the core values of safety, social, environmental and capital stewardship, our employees endeavor to provide all stakeholders with operating and financial transparency.
We are organized through a global commercial group responsible for sales and delivery of our products and operations groups responsible for the production of the minerals that we market. Our operations are organized according to product category and geographic location: U.S. Iron Ore, Asia Pacific Iron Ore, North American Coal and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore.
In the U.S., we currently operate five iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota and two metallurgical coal operations located in Alabama and West Virginia. Our Asia Pacific operations consist solely of our Koolyanobbing iron ore mining complex in Western Australia. We also own two iron ore mines in Eastern Canada, although we have currently shutdown one of the mines due to its unsustainable high cost structure and the other mine has ceased all production and transitioned to "care-and-maintenance" mode.
Re-focusing the Company on our Core U.S. Iron Ore Business
Our leadership changed over the past year. Subsequent to our 2014 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, where shareholders elected six new directors to our Board of Directors, including our new Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Lourenco Goncalves, our Board changed substantially. The reconstituted Board of Directors has established a strategy to return the Company to its core strengths.
We have shifted from a diversification based strategy to one that focuses on strengthening our U.S. Iron Ore operations. We are the market-leading iron ore producer in the U.S., supplying differentiated iron ore pellets under long-term contracts, some of which begin to expire in the end of 2016, to the largest U.S. steel producers. Pricing protections and long-term supply, certainty provided by our existing contracts and our low-cost operating profile positions U.S. Iron Ore as our most stable and profitable business. We expect to continue to strengthen U.S. Iron Ore cost operating profile through our operational expertise and disciplined capital allocation policies.
Eastern Canadian Iron Ore
The Cliffs' Wabush Scully mine in Newfoundland and Labrador was idled by the end of the first quarter of 2014 and subsequently began to commence permanent closure in the fourth quarter of 2014. With costs unsustainably high, it was not economically viable to continue running this operation. Approximately 500 employees at both the Wabush Scully mine and the Pointe Noire rail and port operation in Québec were impacted by these actions.
On November 19, 2014, we announced the pursuit of an exit option for our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations. With the expansion no longer viable and the Bloom Lake operation remaining unprofitable, we have shifted our focus to executing an exit option for Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations that minimizes the cash outflows and associated liabilities.
During the fourth quarter of 2014, we disclosed that, despite our cost-cutting progress at our Bloom Lake mine, we concluded that Phase I alone was not economically feasible based on our current operating plans. For the Bloom Lake mine to be profitable, we concluded that Phase II of the Bloom Lake mine must be developed to reduce the overall cash cost of operations. We could only develop Phase II of the Bloom Lake mine if we had been able to secure new equity partners to share in the capital costs, which we estimated to be approximately $1.2 billion. As the equity partners were unable to commit within the short timeframe we required, we determined that the Phase II expansion of the Bloom Lake mine was no longer a viable option for us and we shifted our focus to considering available possibilities and executing an exit option for Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations that minimized the cash outflows and associated liabilities. In December 2014, iron ore production at the Bloom Lake mine was suspended and the Bloom Lake mine was placed in ‘‘care-and-maintenance’’ mode.
On January 27, 2015, we announced that Bloom Lake General Partner Limited and certain of its affiliates, including Cliffs Québec Iron Mining ULC (collectively, the "Bloom Lake Group") commenced restructuring proceedings in Montreal, Québec, under the CCAA. The Bloom Lake Group had recently suspended operations, and for several months we were exploring options to sell certain of our Canadian assets, among other initiatives. The decision to seek protection under the CCAA was based on a thorough legal and financial analysis of the options available to the Bloom Lake Group. The Bloom Lake Group was no longer generating any revenues and was not able to meet its obligations as they came due. The initial CCAA order addressed the Bloom Lake Group's immediate liquidity issues and permits the Bloom Lake Group to preserve and protect its assets for the benefit of all stakeholders while restructuring and sale options are explored. As part of the CCAA process, the Court has appointed FTI Consulting Canada Inc. as the Monitor. The Monitor's role in the CCAA process is to monitor the activities of the Bloom Lake Group and provide assistance to the Bloom Lake Group and its stakeholders in respect of the CCAA process.
Our Company’s operations are organized and managed according to product category and geographic location: U.S. Iron Ore, Asia Pacific Iron Ore, North American Coal and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore. Amapá, which was sold in the fourth quarter of 2013, previously was reported through our Latin American Iron Ore operating segment, which did not meet the criteria for a reportable segment. Additionally, Sonoma, which was sold in the fourth quarter of 2012, previously was reported through our Asia Pacific Coal operating segment, which did not meet the criteria for a reportable segment.
Segment information reflects our strategic business units, which are organized to meet customer requirements and global competition. We have historically evaluated segment performance based on sales margin, defined as revenues less cost of goods sold, and operating expenses identifiable to each segment. Additionally, beginning in the third quarter of 2014, concurrent with the change of a majority of our Board of Directors and appointment of our new Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer in August 2014, management began to evaluate segment performance based on EBITDA, defined as Net Income (Loss) before interest, income taxes, depreciation, depletion and amortization, and Adjusted EBITDA, defined as EBITDA excluding certain items such as impairment charges, impacts of permanently idled, closed or sold facilities, foreign currency remeasurement, severance and other costs associated with the change in control, litigation judgments and intersegment corporate allocations of SG&A costs. Management uses and believes that investors benefit from referring to these measures in evaluating operating and financial results, as well as in planning, forecasting and analyzing future periods as these financial measures approximate the cash flows associated with the operational earnings. Financial information about our segments, including financial information about geographic areas, is included in Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and NOTE 2 - SEGMENT REPORTING included in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
U.S. Iron Ore
We are a major global iron ore producer, primarily selling production from U.S. Iron Ore to integrated steel companies in the U.S. and Canada. We manage and operate five iron ore mines located in Michigan and Minnesota. The U.S.-based mines currently have an annual rated capacity of 32.9 million tons of iron ore pellet production, representing 56 percent of total U.S. pellet production capacity. Based on our equity ownership in these mines, our share of the annual rated production capacity is currently 25.5 million tons, representing 44 percent of total U.S. annual pellet capacity.
The following chart summarizes the estimated annual pellet production capacity and percentage of total U.S. pellet production capacity for each of the respective iron ore producers as of December 31, 2014:
U.S. Iron Ore Pellet
Annual Rated Capacity Tonnage
Current Estimated Capacity
(Tons in Millions)1
Percent of Total U.S. Capacity
All Cliffs’ managed mines
Other U.S. mines
U.S. Steel’s Minnesota ore operations
Total U.S. Steel
ArcelorMittal USA Minorca mine
Total other U.S. mines
Total U.S. mines
1 Tons are long tons (2,240 pounds)
Our U.S. iron ore production generally is sold pursuant to long-term supply agreements with various price adjustment provisions. For the year ended December 31, 2014, we produced a total of 29.7 million tons of iron ore pellets, including 22.4 million tons for our account and 7.3 million tons on behalf of steel company partners of the mines.
We produce various grades of iron ore pellets, including standard and fluxed, for use in our customers’ blast furnaces as part of the steelmaking process. The variation in grades results from the specific chemical and metallurgical properties of the ores at each mine and whether or not fluxstone is added in the process. Although the grade or grades of pellets currently delivered to each customer are based on that customer’s preferences, which depend in part on the characteristics of the customer’s blast furnace operation, in many cases our iron ore pellets can be used interchangeably. Industry demand for the various grades of iron ore pellets depends on each customer’s preferences and changes from time to time. In the event that a given mine is operating at full capacity, the terms of most of our pellet supply agreements allow some flexibility in providing our customers iron ore pellets from different mines.
Standard pellets require less processing, are generally the least costly pellets to produce and are called “standard” because no ground fluxstone, such as limestone or dolomite, is added to the iron ore concentrate before turning the concentrate into pellets. In the case of fluxed pellets, fluxstone is added to the concentrate, which produces pellets that can perform at higher productivity levels in the customer’s specific blast furnace and will minimize the amount of fluxstone the customer may be required to add to the blast furnace.
Each of our U.S. Iron Ore mines is located near the Great Lakes. The majority of our iron ore pellets are transported via railroads to loading ports for shipment via vessel to steelmakers in North America.
Our U.S. Iron Ore sales are influenced by seasonal factors in the first quarter of the year as shipments and sales are restricted by the Army Corp of Engineers due to closure of the Soo Locks and the Welland Canal on the Great Lakes. During the first quarter, we continue to produce our products, but we cannot ship those products via lake vessel until the conditions on the Great Lakes are navigable, which causes our first quarter inventory levels to rise. Our limited practice of shipping product to ports on the lower Great Lakes or to customers’ facilities prior to the transfer of title has somewhat mitigated the seasonal effect on first quarter inventories and sales, as shipment from this point to the customers’ operations is not limited by weather-related shipping constraints. At December 31, 2014 and 2013, we had approximately 1.4 million and 1.2 million tons of pellets, respectively, in inventory at lower lakes or customers’ facilities.
U.S. Iron Ore Customers
Our U.S. Iron Ore revenues primarily are derived from sales of iron ore pellets to the North American integrated steel industry, consisting of three major customers. Generally, we have multi-year supply agreements with our customers. Sales volume under these agreements largely is dependent on customer requirements, and in many cases, we are the sole supplier of iron ore to the customer. Historically, each agreement has contained a base price that is adjusted annually using one or more adjustment factors. Factors that could result in a price adjustment include spot pricing, measures of general industrial inflation and steel prices. Additionally, certain of our supply agreements have a provision that limits the amount of price increase or decrease in any given year.
During 2014, 2013 and 2012, we sold 21.8 million, 21.3 million and 21.6 million tons of iron ore pellets, respectively, from our share of the production from our U.S. Iron Ore mines. The segment’s five largest customers together accounted for a total of 95 percent, 87 percent and 91 percent of U.S. Iron Ore product revenues for the years 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. Effective September 16, 2014, AK Steel completed the acquisition of Severstal North America's integrated steelmaking assets located in Dearborn, Michigan. For comparative purposes, we have combined historical data of AK Steel for all periods presented. Refer to Concentration of Customers below for additional information regarding our major customers.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore
Our Asia Pacific Iron Ore operations are located in Western Australia and, as of December 31, 2014, consist solely of our wholly owned Koolyanobbing complex. Our 50 percent equity interest in Cockatoo Island also was included in these operations through September 2012, at which time we sold our interest.
The Koolyanobbing operations serve the Asian iron ore markets with direct-shipped fines and lump ore. The lump products are fed directly to blast furnaces, while the fines products are used as sinter feed. The variation in the two export product grades reflects the inherent chemical and physical characteristics of the ore bodies mined as well as the supply requirements of our customers. In September 2010, our Board of Directors approved a capital project at our Koolyanobbing operation, which was completed in the second quarter of 2012, and increased production capacity at Koolyanobbing to approximately 11.0 million metric tons annually. Production in 2014 was 11.4 million metric tons, compared with 11.1 million metric tons in 2013 and 10.7 million metric tons in 2012.
Koolyanobbing is a collective term for the operating deposits at Koolyanobbing, Mount Jackson and Windarling. There are approximately 70 miles separating the three mining areas. Banded iron formations host the mineralization, which is predominately hematite and goethite. Each deposit is characterized with different chemical and physical attributes and, in order to achieve customer product quality, ore in varying quantities from each deposit must be blended together.
Crushing and blending are undertaken at Koolyanobbing, where the crushing and screening plant is located. Once the blended ore has been crushed and screened into a direct lump and fines shipping product, it is transported by rail approximately 360 miles south to the Port of Esperance, via Kalgoorlie, for shipment to our customers in Asia.
On July 31, 2012, we entered into a definitive asset sale agreement with our joint venture partner, HWE Cockatoo Pty Ltd., to sell our beneficial interest in the mining tenements and certain infrastructure of Cockatoo Island to Pluton Resources, which agreement was amended on August 31, 2012. On September 7, 2012, the closing date, Pluton Resources paid a nominal sum of AUD $4.00 and assumed ownership of the assets and responsibility for the environmental rehabilitation obligations and other assumed liabilities not inherently attached to the tenements acquired. The rehabilitation obligations and assumed liabilities that inherently are attached to the tenements were transferred to Pluton Resources upon registration by the Department of Mining and Petroleum denoting Pluton Resources as the tenement holder. Upon final settlement of the sale, which was completed during the second quarter of 2013, we extinguished approximately $18.6 million related to the estimated cost of the rehabilitation. As of December 31, 2013, we had no remaining rehabilitation obligations related to Cockatoo Island. Our production at Cockatoo Island continued until the completion of Stage 3 mining in September 2012. Our portion of Cockatoo's annual production of iron ore premium fines totaled 0.6 million metric tons in 2012. We had no production at Cockatoo Island in 2014 and 2013 due to the sale of our interest in Cockatoo Island during the third quarter of 2012.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore Customers
Asia Pacific Iron Ore’s production is under contract with steel companies primarily in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Generally, we have two-year or three-year term supply agreements with steel producers in China and two-year supply agreements in Japan. Pricing for our Asia Pacific Iron Ore customers consists of shorter-term pricing mechanisms of various durations up to one month based on the average of daily spot prices that are generally associated with either unloading each shipment or the time of loading. The existing contracts are due to expire at various dates until March 2015 for our Chinese and Japanese customers which are customarily renewed in conjunction with our customers' fiscal year.
During 2014, 2013 and 2012, we sold 11.5 million, 11.0 million and 11.7 million metric tons of iron ore, respectively, from our Western Australia mines. No Asia Pacific Iron Ore customer comprised more than 10 percent of Cliffs consolidated sales in 2014, 2013 or 2012. Asia Pacific Iron Ore’s five largest customers accounted for approximately 38 percent of the segment’s sales in 2014, 42 percent in 2013 and 44 percent in 2012.
North American Coal
We own and operate two low-volatile metallurgical coal operations located in Alabama and West Virginia that currently have a rated capacity of 6.5 million tons of production annually as of December 31, 2014. In 2014, we sold a total of 7.4 million tons, compared with 7.3 million tons in 2013 and 6.5 million tons in 2012. In the fourth quarter of 2014, we sold our CLCC assets, which consisted of two high-volatile metallurgical coal mines and a thermal coal mine. The sale was completed on December 31, 2014. Sales tons at the CLCC operations were 2.4 million tons, 2.2 million tons and 2.1 million tons for the years ended December 31, 2014, 2013, and 2012, respectively, and are included in the sales tons disclosed above.
Metallurgical coal generally is sold at a premium over the more prevalently mined thermal coal, which generally is utilized to generate electricity. Metallurgical coal receives this premium because of its coking characteristics, which include contraction and expansion when heated, and volatility, which refers to the loss in mass when coal is heated in the absence of air. Coals with lower volatility are valued more highly than coals with a higher volatility.
Each of our North American coal mines are positioned near rail or barge lines providing access to international shipping ports, which allows for export of our coal production.
North American Coal Customers
North American Coal’s metallurgical coal production is sold to global integrated steel and coke producers in Europe, North America, China, India and South America and its thermal coal production was sold to energy companies and distributors in North America and Europe. Approximately 56 percent of our 2014 and 70 percent of our 2013 production was committed under contracts of at least one year. Approximately 45 percent of our projected 2015 sales has been committed and priced. North American contract negotiations are largely completed, and international contract negotiations recently have begun. The remaining tonnage primarily is pending price negotiations with our international customers, which typically is dependent on settlements of Australian pricing for metallurgical coal. International customer contracts typically are negotiated on a fiscal year basis extending from April 1 through March 31, whereas customer contracts in North America typically are negotiated on a calendar year basis extending from January 1 through December 31.
International and North American sales represented 64 percent and 36 percent, respectively, of our North American Coal sales in 2014. This compares with 61 percent and 39 percent, respectively, in 2013 and 66 percent and 34 percent, respectively, in 2012. The segment’s five largest customers together accounted for a total of 48 percent, 57 percent and 50 percent of North American Coal product revenues for the years 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. Refer to Concentration of Customers below for additional information regarding our major customers.
Eastern Canadian Iron Ore
We own two iron ore mines in Eastern Canada, the Bloom Lake mine and the Wabush Scully mine.
As disclosed in the first quarter of 2014, at the end of March 2014, we idled our Wabush Scully mine in Newfoundland and Labrador and in November 2014, we began to implement the permanent closure plan for the mine. The idle and ultimate closure was driven by the unsustainable high cost structure. Additionally, we disclosed in November 2014, that we were pursuing exit options for our Bloom Lake mine. As disclosed in January 2015, active production at the Bloom Lake mine has ceased and the mine has transitioned to "care-and-maintenance" mode. Together, the shutdown of the Wabush Scully mine and the cessation of operations at our Bloom Lake mine represent a complete curtailment of our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations.
We had been producing a concentrate product at our Bloom Lake operation and, starting in the second half of 2013 through the idle in the first quarter of 2014, we had been producing a concentrate product at our Wabush operation in Eastern Canada. The concentrate products had been marketed toward steel producers, predominately based in Asia, that have sintering capabilities at their steel-making operations. The Bloom Lake concentrate was blended with other sinter fines and materials at high temperatures, creating a direct charge product used in blast furnace operations.
We produced “high manganese” pellets, both in standard and fluxed grades, through June 2013 at our Wabush operation in Eastern Canada, where there is more natural manganese in the crude ore than is found at our other operations. The manganese contained in the iron ore mined at Wabush cannot be removed entirely during the concentrating process.
For the year ended December 31, 2014, we produced a total of 6.2 million metric tons of concentrate.
Both Eastern Canadian Iron Ore mines are located near the St. Lawrence Seaway. Our iron ore products had been transported via railroads to loading ports for shipment via vessel to steelmakers in North America or into the international seaborne market.
Eastern Canadian Iron Ore Customers
Our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore revenues were derived from sales to customers in Asia, Europe and North America. We had various customers for iron ore concentrate and pellets, of which our partner in the Bloom Lake mine is considered a major customer for iron ore concentrate. Pricing for our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore customers consisted primarily of short-term pricing arrangements that were linked to spot market pricing.
During 2014, 2013 and 2012, we sold 7.2 million, 8.6 million and 8.9 million metric tons of iron ore concentrate and pellets, respectively, from our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore mines, with the segment’s five largest customers together accounting for a total of 88 percent, 70 percent and 62 percent of Eastern Canadian Iron Ore product revenues, respectively. Refer to Concentration of Customers below for additional information regarding our major customers.
On December 27, 2012, our Board of Directors authorized the sale of our 30 percent interest in Amapá. Per this original agreement, together with Anglo, we were to sell our respective interest in a 100 percent sale transaction to Zamin.
On March 28, 2013, an unknown event caused the Santana port shiploader to collapse into the Amazon River, preventing further ship loading by the mine operator, Anglo. In light of the Santana port shiploader collapse and subsequent evaluation of the effect that this event had on the carrying value of our investment in Amapá as of June 30, 2013, we recorded an impairment charge of $67.6 million in the second quarter of 2013.
On August 28, 2013, we entered into additional agreements to sell our 30 percent interest in Amapá to Anglo for nominal cash consideration, plus the right to certain contingent deferred consideration upon the two-year anniversary of the closing. The closing was conditional on obtaining certain regulatory approvals and the additional agreement provided Anglo with an option to request that we transfer our interest in Amapá directly to Zamin. Anglo exercised this option and the transfer to Zamin closed in the fourth quarter of 2013. Our interest in Amapá previously was reported as our Latin American iron ore operating segment.
On July 10, 2012, we entered into a definitive share and asset sale agreement to sell our 45 percent economic interest in the Sonoma joint venture coal mine located in Queensland, Australia. Upon completion of the transaction on November 12, 2012, we collected approximately AUD $141.0 million in net cash proceeds. The assets sold included our interests in the Sonoma mine along with our ownership of the affiliated wash plant, which were previously reported as our Asia Pacific Coal operating segment. Production and sales totaled approximately 2.8 million and 2.9 million metric tons of coal, respectively, through the sale completion date.
Applied Technology, Research and Development
We have been a leader in iron ore mining and process technology for more than 160 years. We operated some of the first mines on Michigan’s Marquette Iron Range and pioneered early open-pit and underground mining methods. From the first application of electrical power in Michigan’s underground mines to the use of today’s sophisticated computers and global positioning satellite systems, we have been a leader in the application of new technology to the centuries-old business of mineral extraction. Today, our engineering and technical staffs are engaged in full-time technical support of our operations and improvement of existing products.
With state-of-the-art equipment and experienced technical professionals, we remain on the forefront of mining technology. We have an unsurpassed reputation for our pelletizing technology, delivering a world-class quality product to a broad range of sophisticated end users. We are a pioneer in the development of emerging reduction technologies, a leader in the extraction of value from challenging resources and a frontrunner in the implementation of safe and sustainable technology. Our technical experts are dedicated to excellence and deliver superior technical solutions tailored to our customer base.
Concentration of Customers
Based on re-casted information to account for the acquisition of Severstal assets in Dearborn, Michigan by AK Steel in 2014 and 2012, we had two customers that individually accounted for more than 10 percent of our consolidated product revenue. In 2013, we had one customer that individually accounted for more than 10 percent of our consolidated product revenue. Product revenue from those customers represented in the chart below totaled approximately $1.6 billion, $1.5 billion and $1.6 billion of our total consolidated product revenue in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively, and is attributable to our U.S. Iron Ore, North American Coal and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore business segments. The following represents sales revenue from each of these customers as a percentage of our total consolidated product revenue, as well as the portion of product sales for U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore and North American Coal that is attributable to each of these customers in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively:
Percentage of Total
1 Excluding freight and venture partners’ cost reimbursements.
2 Includes subsidiaries.
3 Effective September 16, 2014, AK Steel completed the acquisition of Severstal North America's integrated steelmaking assets located in Dearborn, Michigan. For comparative purposes, we have combined historical data for all periods presented.
U.S. Iron Ore
North American Coal Product
Iron Ore Product
1 Excluding freight and venture partners’ cost reimbursements.
2 Includes subsidiaries.
3 Effective September 16, 2014, AK Steel completed the acquisition of Severstal North America's integrated steelmaking assets located in Dearborn, Michigan. For comparative purposes, we have combined historical data for all periods presented.
Our pellet supply agreements with ArcelorMittal USA are the basis for supplying pellets to ArcelorMittal USA, which is based on customer requirements, except for the Indiana Harbor East facility, which is based on customer excess requirements. The following table outlines the expiration dates for each of the respective agreements:
Cleveland Works and Indiana Harbor West facilities
Indiana Harbor East facility
ArcelorMittal USA is a 62.3 percent equity participant in Hibbing, as well as, a 21.0 percent equity partner in Empire with limited rights and obligations.
In 2014, 2013 and 2012, our U.S. Iron Ore pellet sales to ArcelorMittal were 10.2 million, 9.5 million and 8.6 million tons, respectively, and our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore pellet and concentrate sales to ArcelorMittal were none, 0.9 million and 0.7 million metric tons, respectively.
In 2014, 2013 and 2012, our North American Coal sales to ArcelorMittal were 0.5 million, 0.5 million and 0.3 million tons, respectively. We do not have any contracts with ArcelorMittal associated with the remaining North American Coal operations, due to our major contract with ArcelorMittal being transferred to the buyer of our CLCC operations. The sale of CLCC was completed on December 31, 2014.
On September 16, 2014, AK Steel announced an acquisition of Severstal North America’s integrated steelmaking assets located in Dearborn, Michigan. We have a long-term relationship to supply iron ore pellets to Severstal’s steelmaking assets at that location. Upon consummation of the acquisition, the contract was automatically assigned to AK Steel. The combination of sales pursuant to our preexisting sales agreement with AK Steel and the acquisition of the Dearborn facility with its sales agreement accounts for more than 10 percent of our consolidated product revenue in 2014.
On August 29, 2013 we entered into a new agreement with AK Steel to provide iron ore pellets to AK Steel for use in its Middletown, Ohio and Ashland, Kentucky blast furnace facilities. This contract includes minimum and maximum tonnage requirements for each year between 2014 and 2023.
Under the original agreement entered into with Severstal in 2006, we supply all of the Dearborn, Michigan facility’s blast furnace pellet requirements through 2022, subject to specified minimum and maximum requirements in certain years. AK Steel was the successor by merger of this contract and it remains in force. In September 2014, we entered into an amendment to the Dearborn contract with AK Steel to document the 2013 base pricing provisions, among other things, which resulted from an arbitration ruling in May 2014.
In 2014, 2013 and 2012, our U.S. Iron Ore pellet sales to AK Steel and the acquired Dearborn facility were 5.8 million, 4.1 million and 5.7 million tons, respectively.
Throughout the world, we compete with major and junior mining companies, as well as metals companies, both of which produce steelmaking raw materials, including iron ore and metallurgical coal.
In our U.S. Iron Ore business segment, we primarily sell our product to steel producers with operations in North America. In our now shuttered Eastern Canadian Iron Ore business segment, we primarily had provided our product to the seaborne market for Asian steel producers. We compete directly with steel companies that own interests in iron ore mines, including ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel, and with major iron ore exporters from Australia and Brazil. Additionally, in the last year, there has been a 38 percent increase in steel imported into the U.S. to 44.3 million tons during the first 11 months of 2014, despite the imposition of new import tariffs last summer. This reduced demand for U.S. produced steel and directly affect the demand for iron ore within North America.
In the coal industry, our North American Coal business segment competes with many metallurgical coal producers of various sizes, including Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., Patriot Coal Corporation, CONSOL Energy Inc., Arch Coal, Inc., Walter Energy, Inc., Peabody Energy Corp. and other producers located in North America and globally.
A number of factors beyond our control affect the markets in which we sell our iron ore and coal. Continued demand for our iron ore and metallurgical coal and the prices obtained by us primarily depend on the consumption patterns of the steel industry in the U.S., China and elsewhere around the world, as well as the availability, location, cost of transportation and competing prices. Coal consumption patterns primarily are affected by demand, environmental and other governmental regulations and technological developments. The most important factors on which we compete are delivered price, coal quality characteristics such as heat value, sulfur, ash, volatile matter and moisture content and reliability of supply. Metallurgical coal, which primarily is used to make coke, a key component in the steelmaking process, generally sells at a premium over thermal coal due to its higher quality and value in the steelmaking process.
In our Asia Pacific Iron Ore business segment, we export iron ore products to the Asia Pacific markets, including China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In the Asia Pacific marketplace, we compete with major iron ore exporters from Australia, Brazil, South Africa and India. These include Anglo, BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., Rio Tinto plc and Vale, among others.
Competition in steelmaking raw materials is predicated upon the usual competitive factors of price, availability of supply, product quality and performance, service and transportation cost to the consumer of the raw materials.
Our mining and limited exploration activities are subject to various laws and regulations governing the protection of the environment. We conduct our operations in a manner that is protective of public health and the environment and believe our operations are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations in all material respects.
Environmental issues and their management continued to be an important focus at each of our operations throughout 2014. In the construction of our facilities and in their operation, substantial costs have been incurred and will continue to be incurred to avoid undue effect on the environment. Our capital expenditures relating to environmental matters totaled approximately $33 million, $32 million and $31 million, in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. It is estimated that capital expenditures for environmental improvements will total approximately $42 million in 2015. Estimated expenditures in 2015 are comprised of approximately $35 million for projects in our U.S. Iron Ore operations and $7 million in our North American Coal operations for various water treatment, air quality, dust control, selenium management, tailings management and other miscellaneous environmental projects.
Various governmental bodies continually promulgate new or amended laws and regulations that affect our Company, our customers and our suppliers in many areas, including waste discharge and disposal, the classification of materials and products, air and water discharges and many other environmental, health and safety matters. Although we believe that our environmental policies and practices are sound and do not expect that the application of any current laws or regulations reasonably would be expected to result in a material adverse effect on our business or financial condition, we cannot predict the collective adverse impact of the expanding body of laws and regulations.
Specifically, there are several notable proposed or potential rulemakings or activities that could potentially have a material adverse impact on our facilities in the future depending on their ultimate outcome: Climate Change and GHG Regulation, Regional Haze, NO2 and SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Cross State Air Pollution Rule, increased administrative and legislative initiatives related to coal mining activities, Mercury TMDL and Minnesota Taconite Mercury Reduction Strategy's evolving scope of the Clean Water Act and definition of “Waters of the United States” and Selenium Discharge Regulation.
Climate Change and GHG Regulation
With the complexities and uncertainties associated with the U.S. and global navigation of the climate change issue as a whole, one of our significant risks for the future is mandatory carbon legislation. Policymakers are in the design process of carbon regulation at the state, regional, national and international levels. The current regulatory patchwork of carbon compliance schemes presents a challenge for multi-facility entities to identify their near-term risks. Amplifying the uncertainty, the dynamic forward outlook for carbon regulation presents a challenge to large industrial companies to assess the long-term net impacts of carbon compliance costs on their operations. Our exposure on this issue includes both the direct and indirect financial risks associated with the regulation of GHG emissions, as well as potential physical risks associated with climate change. We are continuing to review the physical risks related to climate change utilizing a formal risk management process.
Internationally, mechanisms to reduce emissions are being implemented in various countries, with differing designs and stringency, according to resources, economic structure and politics. We expect that momentum to extend carbon regulation will continue. Australia and Canada are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol. As such, our facilities in each of these countries are impacted by the Kyoto Protocol, but in varying degrees according to the mechanisms each country establishes for compliance and each country’s commitment to reducing emissions. Australia and Canada are considered Annex 1 countries, meaning that they are obligated to reduce their emissions under the Protocol. The impact of the Kyoto Protocol on our Canadian operations has diminished with the idling of our Canadian operations.
In Australia, legislation for a carbon tax was passed in July 2012. The direct impact of the carbon tax on our Asia Pacific operations primarily occurs through increased fuel costs. The tax was estimated to result in an increase in direct costs of approximately A$3.5 million per year however following a change of Federal Government in September 2013 the carbon tax was repealed in July 2014.
In the U.S., federal carbon regulation potentially presents a significantly greater impact to our operations. To date, the U.S. has not legislated carbon constraints. In the absence of comprehensive federal carbon legislation, numerous state and regional regulatory initiatives are under development or are becoming effective, thereby creating a disjointed approach to carbon control. On June 25, 2013, President Obama issued a memorandum directing the EPA to develop carbon emission standards for both new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act's NSPS. On January 8, 2014, the EPA proposed NSPS regulating carbon dioxide emissions from new fossil fuel-fired power plants. On June 2, 2014, EPA proposed the ‘Clean Power Plan’ which consists of NSPS regulating carbon dioxide from existing power plants at a level 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. States must submit Clean Power Plan SIPs by June 2016, though extension waivers will be made available. As proposed these rules would not affect our Silver Bay power generating facility.
As an energy-intensive business, our GHG emissions inventory captures a broad range of emissions sources, such as iron ore furnaces and kilns, coal thermal driers, diesel mining equipment and our wholly owned Silver Bay power generation plant, among others. As such, our most significant regulatory risks are: (1) the costs associated with on-site emissions levels, and (2) the costs passed through to us from power generators and distillate fuel suppliers.
We believe our exposure can be reduced substantially by numerous factors, including currently contemplated regulatory flexibility mechanisms, such as allowance allocations, fixed process emissions exemptions, offsets and international provisions; emissions reduction opportunities, including energy efficiency, biofuels, fuel flexibility, emerging shale gas, coal mine methane offset reduction; and business opportunities associated with new products and technology.
We have worked proactively to develop a comprehensive, enterprise-wide GHG management strategy aimed at considering all significant aspects associated with GHG initiatives to plan effectively for and manage climate change issues, including risks and opportunities as they relate to the environment, stakeholders, including shareholders and the public, legislative and regulatory developments, operations, products and markets.
In June 2005, the EPA finalized amendments to its regional haze rules. The rules require states establish goals and emission reduction strategies for improving visibility in all Class I national parks and wilderness areas. Among the states with Class I areas are Michigan, Minnesota, Alabama and West Virginia in which we currently own and manage mining operations. The first phase of the regional haze rule (2008-2018) requires analysis and installation of BART on eligible emission sources and incorporation of BART and associated emission limits into SIPs.
Minnesota submitted a regional haze SIP to the EPA on December 30, 2009, and a supplement to the SIP on May 8, 2012. Michigan submitted its regional haze SIP to the EPA on November 5, 2010. During the second quarter of 2012, the EPA also sent information requests to all taconite facilities requesting information on SO2 and NOx emissions
and control technology assessments. On June 12, 2012, the EPA approved revisions to the Minnesota SIP addressing regional haze, but also announced it was deferring action on emission limitations that Minnesota intended to represent BART for taconite facilities. On August 15, 2012, the EPA proposed to deny the Michigan and Minnesota taconite SIP BART determinations and simultaneously proposed a separate FIP for taconite facilities. During the comment period for the proposed FIP rule, the taconite industry and other stakeholders developed detailed comments and shared information to address furnace specific case-by-case circumstances. On January 15, 2013, the EPA signed the final FIP for taconite facilities. The final FIP reflects progress toward a more technically and economically feasible regional haze implementation plan and eliminates the need for investing in additional SO2 emission control equipment. However, we remain concerned about the technical and economic feasibility of EPA's BART determination for NOx emissions and we filed a petition for review in the 8th Circuit Court and subsequently received a judicial stay of the FIP which enabled us to conduct a detailed engineering analysis to determine the impact of the regulations on each unique iron ore indurating furnace affected by this rule. The results of this analysis enabled us to reach a settlement with EPA which was public noticed in the Federal Register on January 30, 2015. Cost estimates associated with the settlement are reflected in our 5-year capital plan.
NO2 and SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standards
During the first half of 2010, the EPA promulgated rules that require states to use a combination of air quality monitoring and computer modeling to determine areas of each state that are in attainment with new NO2 and SO2 standards and those areas that are not in attainment with such standards. During the third quarter of 2011, the EPA issued guidance to the regulated community on conducting refined air quality dispersion modeling and implementing the new NO2 and SO2 standards. The NO2 and SO2 standards have been challenged by various large industry groups. Accordingly, at this time, we are unable to predict the final impact of these standards. During June 2011, our Minnesota iron ore mining operations received a request from the MPCA to develop modeling and compliance plans and timelines by which each facility would demonstrate compliance with present and proposed NAAQS as well as regional haze requirements outlined in the SIP. Compliance must be achieved by June 30, 2017 according to the initial state orders, although the EPA has indicated that the SO2 attainment area designation timelines have been extended out to 2020. We continue to assess options by which to achieve compliance and seek alignment between the state and federal expectations.
Cross State Air Pollution Rule
On July 6, 2011, the EPA promulgated the CSAPR, which was intended to be an emissions trading rule for SO2 and NOx. Northshore's Silver Bay Power Plant would have been subject to this rule, however Minnesota elected to follow EPA guidance allowing CSAPR to stand as BART. CSAPR was vacated by the D.C. Circuit Court during the third quarter of 2012. Late in 2014, the Supreme Court re-instated CSAPR with an effective date of January 1, 2015, re-instating the obligations of this rule for Silver Bay Power. Immediate compliance obligations are being met at this time, with the material obligation being procurement of the first year of emissions allowances by March 2016 for the 2015 operating year. Silver Bay Power is completing the engineering and permitting work to install controls that will limit the cost exposure to the trading market. The allowance pricing market is continuing to fluctuate so price impacts are not yet certain, we anticipate the annual costs will be less than $1 million for 2015 and gradually decreasing to less than $400,000 per year after we complete our emission reduction project in 2017.
Increased Administrative and Legislative Initiatives Related to Coal Mining Activities
Although the focus of significantly increased government activity related to coal mining in the U.S. is generally targeted at eliminating or minimizing the adverse environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining practices, these initiatives have the potential to impact all types of coal operations, including subsurface longwall mining typically deployed for recovering metallurgical coal. Specifically, the coordinated efforts by various federal agencies to further regulate mountaintop mining have slowed issuance of the permits required by many mining projects in Appalachia. Due to the developing nature of these initiatives and their potential to disrupt even routine mining and water permit practices in the coal industry, we are unable to predict whether these initiatives could have a material effect on our coal operations in the future. We are working closely with our trade associations to monitor the various rulemaking developments in an effort to enable us to develop viable strategies to minimize the financial impact to the business.
Mercury TMDL and Minnesota Taconite Mercury Reduction Strategy
TMDL regulations are contained in the Clean Water Act. As a part of Minnesota's Mercury TMDL Implementation Plan, in cooperation with the MPCA, the taconite industry developed a Taconite Mercury Reduction Strategy and signed a voluntary agreement in 2009 to effectuate its terms. The strategy includes a 75 percent target reduction of mercury air emissions from Minnesota pellet plants collectively by 2025. It recognizes that mercury emission control technology currently does not exist and will be pursued through a research effort. According to the voluntary agreement, any developed technology must meet the “adaptive management criteria” such that the technology must be economically feasible, must not impact pellet quality, and must not cause excessive corrosion in pellet furnaces, associated duct work and existing wet scrubbers on the furnaces.
According to the voluntary agreement, the mines proceeded with medium- and long-term testing of possible technologies. For Cliffs, the requirements in the voluntary agreement applies to the United Taconite and Hibbing facilities. At this time, we are unable to predict the potential impacts of the voluntary Taconite Mercury Reduction Strategy. However, a number of research projects were conducted between 2011 and 2014 as the industry continues to assess options for reduction. While injection of powdered activated carbon into furnace off-gasses for mercury capture in the wet scrubbers showed positive initial results, further testing during 2013 yielded lower overall potential. Alternate technologies are presently being assessed in our ongoing efforts to develop cost effective mercury reduction technologies for our indurating furnaces.
On September 22, 2014, Minnesota promulgated the Mercury Air Emissions Reporting and Reduction Rule mandating mercury air emissions reporting and reduction. The adopted rule expanded applicability to all of our Minnesota operations and requires submitting a mercury reduction plan in 2018 to reduce mercury emissions from all of our Minnesota taconite furnaces by 72 percent by January 2025 and 70 percent reduction from Northshore’s industrial boilers by January 1, 2018. The adopted rule does not include all four Adaptive Management Criteria for evaluating mercury reduction, which were agreed upon in the October 2009 Minnesota’s Mercury TMDL Implementation Plan.
To date, there is currently no proven technology to cost effectively reduce mercury emissions from taconite furnaces to the target level of 72 percent that would meet all four Adaptive Management Criteria. We remain concerned about the technical and economic feasibility to reduce taconite mercury emissions by 72 percent and are conducting detailed engineering analysis to determine the impact of the regulations on each unique iron ore indurating furnace affected by this rule. The results of this analysis will guide further dialog with the MPCA regarding our implementation of the requirements.
Selenium Discharge Regulation
Our North American Coal operations have numerous NPDES permits with either selenium discharge limits or draft permits with selenium limits. We have achieved, or have projects underway that will achieve compliance at all discharges. As such, we do not believe this issue will likely have a material impact to our North American Coal operations.
In Michigan, the MDEQ issued renewed NPDES permits for our Empire mine in December 2011 and for our Tilden mine in 2012. Our Michigan operations at Empire and Tilden are developing compliance strategies to meet new selenium process water limits according to the permit conditions. Empire and Tilden submitted the Selenium Storm Water Management Plan to the MDEQ in December 2011. The Selenium Storm Water Management Plan outlines the activities that will be undertaken to address selenium in storm water discharges from our Michigan operations. The activities include the evaluation of structural controls, non-structural controls, site specific standards, and evaluation of potential impacts to groundwater. Pilot treatment systems have had good initial results and evaluation work continues. An initial estimate for full scale implementation of storm water treatment systems and structural selenium controls at both facilities is approximately $63 million. The results from the evaluation of existing pilot and demonstration-scale work will determine if these structural controls are utilized, or if alternatives must be applied.
Tilden's NPDES permit renewal became effective on November 1, 2012. The permit contains a compliance schedule for selenium with a limit of five µg/l that will be effective as of November 1, 2017, at Tilden's Gribben Tailings Basin outfall. Tilden has initiated a prudent and feasible alternatives analysis to further define solutions and cost estimates. Preliminary testing and engineering for end-of-pipe solutions indicates capital costs are likely to be less than the previously estimated range of $96 million to $146 million. The next phase of engineering and updated cost estimates are scheduled to be concluded in the first half of 2015. In May 2014, the EPA proposed new selenium fish tissue limits and a lower lentic water column concentration criterion which may increase the cost for treatment. We are incorporating this contingency into our planning and treatment technology development.
Definition of “Waters of the United States” Under the Clean Water Act
The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed rule, “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act,” 79 Fed. Reg. 22188 (Apr. 21, 2014), attempts to add clarity to which waters are jurisdictional under the federal Clean Water Act, and will apply to all Clean Water Act programs, including the Sec. 402 and Sec. 404 permitting programs, Sec. 311 spill prevention program and Sec. 401 state certification process. It is unclear how the federal and state agencies will implement and enforce the final rule, and how the courts will interpret going forward, however, there is substantial cause to be concerned in several areas of the draft. The draft regulation may expand EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act to many traditionally unregulated mine features such as mine pits, pit lakes, on site ditches, water retention structures, and tailings basins creating a new burden on our U.S. facilities. This could further be interpreted to add questionable regulatory authority over the groundwater connections between these features and nearby traditionally navigable waters. We are actively participating in the rulemaking development and assessing the potential impacts to our operations.
For additional information on our environmental matters, refer to Item 3. Legal Proceedings and NOTE 11 - ENVIRONMENTAL AND MINE CLOSURE OBLIGATIONS in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
The state of Michigan is a deregulated electricity state, which affords our mines the ability to purchase electrical energy supply from various suppliers while continuing to purchase distribution service from the incumbent utility. As of September 1, 2013, our Tilden and Empire mines in Michigan exercised the right to purchase electrical supply from Integrys Energy Services while continuing to purchase distribution service from Wisconsin Electric Power Company. The pricing of electricity in the deregulated market is based on the Midwestern Independent System Operator Day-Ahead price. Beginning on February 1, 2015, we began purchasing our electricity supply from the Wisconsin Electric Power Company in a regulated fashion as we terminated our contract with Integrys Energy Services. As of February 1, 2015, Wisconsin Electric Power Company is the sole supplier of electric power to our Empire and Tilden mines. Wisconsin Electric Power Company provides 300 megawatts of electricity to Empire and Tilden at rates that are regulated by the MPSC. The Empire and Tilden mines are subject to changes in Wisconsin Electric Power Company's rates, such as base interim rate changes that Wisconsin Electric Power Company may self-implement and final rate changes that are approved by the MPSC in response to applications filed by Wisconsin Electric Power Company. Additionally, Empire and Tilden are subject to frequent changes in Wisconsin Electric Power Company's power supply adjustment factor.
Electric power for the Hibbing and United Taconite mines is supplied by Minnesota Power. On September 16, 2008, the mines finalized agreements with terms from November 1, 2008 through December 31, 2015. The agreements were approved by the MPUC in 2009.
Silver Bay Power Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of ours, with a 115 megawatt power plant, provides the majority of Northshore’s electrical energy requirements. Silver Bay Power has an interconnection agreement with Minnesota Power for backup power when excess generation is necessary.
Wabush had a 20-year agreement with Newfoundland Power, which ended December 31, 2014. This agreement allowed for an exchange of water rights in return for the power needs for Wabush’s mining operations. Beginning on January 1, 2015, Wabush has a short-term electricity agreement with Newfoundland Hydro Power. The pricing of this agreement is set by the Labrador industrial rate policy. The Wabush pelletizing operation and the Bloom Lake operation in Québec are served by Québec Hydro, which provides power under regulated rates that are set on an annual basis.
The Oak Grove mine and Concord Preparation Plant are supplied electrical power by Alabama Power under a five-year contract that continues in effect until terminated by either party providing written notice to the other in accordance with applicable rules, regulations and rate schedules. Rates of the contract are subject to change during the term of the contract as regulated by the Alabama Public Services Commission.
Electrical power to the Pinnacle Complex is supplied by the Appalachian Power Company under a regulated electrical supply contract. The contract specifies the applicable rate schedule, minimum monthly charge and power capacity furnished. Rates, terms and conditions of the contract are subject to the approval of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia.
Koolyanobbing and its associated satellite mines draw power from independent diesel-fueled power stations and generators. Diesel power generation capacity has been installed at the Koolyanobbing operations.
We have a long-term contract providing for the transport of natural gas on the Northern Natural Gas Pipeline for our U.S. Iron Ore operations. Our Pinnacle and Oak Grove coal operations also use natural gas, but purchase it through their local regulated utility, Mountaineer Gas and Alabama Gas Co., respectively. At U.S. Iron Ore, the Empire and Tilden mines have the capability of burning natural gas, coal or, to a lesser extent, oil. The Hibbing and Northshore mines have the capability to burn natural gas and oil. The United Taconite mine has the ability to burn coal, natural gas and petroleum coke. Consistent with 2014, we expect during 2015 our U.S. Iron Ore operations will utilize both natural gas and coal to heat furnaces and produce power at our Silver Bay Power facility. At Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, the Wabush mine has the capability to burn bunker fuel, stove and furnace oils and coke breeze and the Bloom Lake mine has the ability to burn stove and furnace oils. Our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore process fuel is primarily supplied by Imperial Oil, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, through contracts.
As of December 31, 2014, we had a total of 5,386 employees.
U.S. Iron Ore1
Asia Pacific Iron Ore 2
North American Coal
Eastern Canadian Iron Ore2
Corporate & Support Services
1 Includes our employees and the employees of the U.S. Iron Ore joint ventures.
2 Excludes contracted mining employees
As of December 31, 2014, approximately 85.0 percent of our U.S. Iron Ore hourly employees, approximately 100.0 percent of our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore hourly employees and approximately 100.0 percent of our North American Coal hourly employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Hourly employees at our Michigan and Minnesota iron ore mining operations, excluding Northshore, are represented by the USW. The labor agreements that cover approximately 2,200 USW-represented employees at our Empire and Tilden mines in Michigan, and our United Taconite and Hibbing mines in Minnesota are effective September 1, 2012 through September 30, 2015. Employees at our Northshore operations are not represented by a union and are not, therefore, covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
Hourly employees at our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations also are represented by the USW. The labor agreement with the USW that covers our represented employees at Bloom Lake is effective from September 1, 2013
through August 31, 2016. The labor agreement with the USW that covers our represented employees at our Pointe Noire facility, is effective from March 1, 2014 through February 28, 2020.
Hourly employees at our Lake Superior and Ishpeming railroads are represented by seven unions covering approximately 105 employees. The labor agreements that cover these employees reopened for bargaining on December 31, 2014 and we are actively bargaining with the seven unions that represent them for successor agreements. These employees negotiate under the Railway Labor Act, which provides that labor agreements remain in force until replaced by a successor agreement. Under the Railway Labor Act work stoppages cannot occur until the parties have engaged in substantial negotiations, have mediated any disputes and have received a release from the National Mediation Board.
Hourly production and maintenance employees at our Pinnacle Complex and Oak Grove mines are represented by the UMWA. Our labor agreements with the UMWA at those locations are effective July 1, 2011 through December 31, 2016. Those agreements are identical in all material respects to the NBCWA of 2011 between the UMWA and the National Bituminous Coal Operators’ Association.
Employees at our Asia Pacific Iron Ore, Corporate and Support Services are not represented by a union and are not, therefore, covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Safety is our primary core value as we continue towards a zero incident culture at our operating facilities. We continuously monitor, track and measure our safety performance and make changes where necessary. Best practices are shared globally to ensure each mine site can embed our policies, procedures and learnings for enhanced workplace safety. We measure progress toward achieving our objective against regularly established benchmarks, including measuring company-wide TRIR. During 2014, our TRIR (including contractors) was 2.02 per 200,000 man-hours worked.
Refer to Exhibit 95 Mine Safety Disclosures (filed herewith) for mine safety information required in accordance with Section 1503(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Our headquarters are located at 200 Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio 44114-2315, and our telephone number is (216) 694-5700. We are subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act and its rules and regulations. The Exchange Act requires us to file reports, proxy statements and other information with the SEC. Copies of these reports and other information can be read and copied at:
SEC Public Reference Room
100 F Street N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20549
Information on the operation of the Public Reference Room may be obtained by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330.
The SEC maintains a website that contains reports, proxy statements and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. These materials may be obtained electronically by accessing the SEC’s home page at www.sec.gov.
We use our website, www.cliffsnaturalresources.com, as a channel for routine distribution of important information, including news releases, investor presentations and financial information. We also make available, free of charge on our website, our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and amendments to these reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file these documents with, or furnish them to, the SEC. In addition, our website allows investors and other interested persons to sign up to receive automatic email alerts when we post news releases and financial information on our website.
We also make available, free of charge on our website, the charters of the Audit Committee, Governance and Nominating Committee and Compensation and Organization Committee as well as the Corporate Governance Guidelines and the Code of Business Conduct & Ethics adopted by our Board of Directors. These documents are available through our investor relations page on our website at ir.cliffsnaturalresources.com. The SEC filings are available by selecting “Financial Information” and then “SEC Filings,” and material and corporate governance is available by selecting “Corporate Governance” for the Board Committee Charters, operational governance guidelines and the Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.
References to our website or the SEC’s website do not constitute incorporation by reference of the information contained on such websites, and such information is not part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Copies of the above-referenced information are also available, free of charge, by calling (216) 694-5700 or upon written request to:
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
200 Public Square
Cleveland, OH 44114-2315
EXECUTIVE OFFICERS OF THE REGISTRANT
Following are the names, ages and positions of the executive officers of the Company as of February 25, 2015. Unless otherwise noted, all positions indicated are or were held with Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer (August 2014 - present); Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Metals USA Holdings Corp., an American manufacturer and processor of steel and other metals (May 2006 - April 2013); President, Chief Executive Officer and a director of Metals USA Inc. (February 2003 - April 2006).
Terry G. Fedor
Executive Vice President, United States Iron Ore (January 2014 - present); Vice President (February 2011 - January 2014); Vice President and General Manager (March 2005 - February 2011) of ArcelorMittal Cleveland, a fully integrated steelmaking facility.
James D. Graham
Executive Vice President (November 2014 - present); Chief Legal Officer (March 2013 - present); Secretary (March 2014 - present); Vice President (January 2011 - October 2014); General Counsel - Global Operations (January 2011 - March 2013); Assistant General Counsel (April 2007 - December 2010).
Maurice D. Harapiak
Executive Vice President, Human Resources (June 2014 - present); Regional Director, Human Resources - Barrick Gold of North America, a gold mining company (November 2011 - June 2014); Senior Director, Human Resources, Capital Projects - Barrick Gold Corporation, a gold mining company (November 2007 - November 2011).
Terrence R. Mee
Executive Vice President, Global Commercial (October 2014 - present); Vice President, Global Iron Ore Sales (February 2014 - October 2014); Senior Vice President, Global Iron Ore Sales (March 2012 - February 2014); Senior Vice President, Global Iron Ore & Metallic Sales (January 2011 - March 2012); Vice President, Sales and Transportation (September 2007 - January 2011).
Terrance M. Paradie
Executive Vice President (March 2013 - present); Chief Financial Officer (October 2012 - present); Treasurer (September 2014 - February 2015); Senior Vice President (January 2011 - March 2013); Assistant General Manager - Michigan Operations (March 2012 - September 2012); Corporate Controller (October 2007 - March 2012); Chief Accounting Officer (July 2009 - March 2012); Vice President (October 2007 - January 2011).
Clifford T. Smith
Executive Vice President, Seaborne Iron Ore (January 2014 − present); Executive Vice President, Global Operations (July 2013 - January 2014); Executive Vice President, Global Business Development (March 2013 - July 2013); Senior Vice President, Global Business Development (January 2011 - March 2013); Vice President, Latin American Operations(September 2009 - January 2011).
P. Kelly Tompkins
Executive Vice President, Business Development (October 2014 - present); Executive Vice President, External Affairs and President, Global Commercial (November 2013 - October 2014); Chief Administrative Officer (July 2013 - November 2013); Executive Vice President, Legal, Government Affairs and Sustainability (May 2010 - July 2013). Chief Legal Officer (January 2011 - January 2013); President, Cliffs China (October 2012 - November 2013); Executive vice president and chief financial officer of RPM International Inc., a specialty coatings and sealants manufacturer (June 2008 - May 2010).
David L. Webb
Executive Vice President (January 2014 - present); Senior Vice President, Global Coal (July 2011 - January 2014); Vice president and general manager of Mid-West Operations for Patriot Coal Corp., a producer of thermal and metallurgical coal (2007 - June 2011).
Timothy K. Flanagan
Vice President, Corporate Controller & Chief Accounting Officer (March 2012 - present); Assistant Controller (February 2010 - March 2012); and Director, Internal Audit (April 2008 - February 2010).
All executive officers serve at the pleasure of the Board. There are no arrangements or understandings between any executive officer and any other person pursuant to which an executive officer was selected to be an officer of the Company. There is no family relationship between any of our executive officers, or between any of our executive officers and any of our directors.
An investment in our common shares or other securities is subject to risk inherent to our business and our industry. Described below are certain risks and uncertainties, the occurrences of which could have a material adverse effect on us. Before making an investment decision, you should consider carefully all of the risks described below together with the other information included in this report. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones we face. Although we have significant risk management policies, practices and procedures aimed to mitigate these risks, uncertainties may nevertheless impair our business operation. This report is qualified in its entirety by these factors.
Our ERM function provides a framework for management's consideration of risk when making strategic, financial, operational and/or project decisions. The framework is based on ISO 31000, an internationally recognized risk management standard. Management uses a consistent methodology to identify and assess risks, determine and implement risk mitigation actions, and monitor and communicate information about the Company's key risks. Through these processes, we have identified six categories of risk that we are subject to: (I) economic and market, (II) regulatory, (III) financial, (IV) operational, (V) development and sustainability and (VI) human capital. The following risk factors are presented according to these key risk categories.
ECONOMIC AND MARKET RISKS
The volatility of commodity prices, namely iron ore and coal, affects our ability to generate revenue, maintain stable cash flow and to fund our operations, including growth and expansion projects.
As a mining company, our profitability is dependent upon the price of the commodities that we sell to our customers, namely iron ore and coal. The prices of iron ore and coal have fluctuated historically and are affected by factors beyond our control, including: steel inventories; international demand for raw materials used in steel production; rates of global economic growth, especially construction and infrastructure activity that requires significant amounts of steel; recession or reduced economic activity in the U.S., China, India, Europe and other industrialized or developing countries; uncertainties or weaknesses in global economic conditions such as the sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the U.S. debt ceiling; changes in production capacity of other iron ore and metallurgical coal suppliers, especially as additional supplies come online or where there is a significant increase in imports of steel into the U.S. or Europe; weather-related disruptions or natural disasters that may impact the global supply of iron ore and metallurgical coal; and the proximity, capacity and cost of infrastructure and transportation.
Our earnings, therefore, may fluctuate with the prices of the commodities we sell. To the extent that the prices of these commodities significantly decline for an extended period of time, we may have to revise our operating plans, including curtailing production, reducing operating costs and capital expenditures and discontinuing certain exploration and development programs. We also may have to take impairments on our assets, inventory and/or goodwill. Sustained lower prices also could cause us to reduce existing reserves if certain reserves no longer can be economically mined or processed at prevailing prices. We may be unable to decrease our costs in an amount sufficient to offset reductions in revenues and may incur losses. These events could have a material adverse effect on us.
Uncertainty or weaknesses in global economic conditions and reduced economic growth in China could affect adversely our business.
The world prices of iron ore and coal are influenced strongly by international demand and global economic conditions. Uncertainties or weaknesses in global economic conditions, including the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in Europe, could affect adversely our business and negatively impact our financial results. In addition, the current level of international demand for raw materials used in steel production is driven largely by industrial growth in China. If the economic growth rate in China slows for an extended period of time, or if another global economic downturn were to occur, we would likely see decreased demand for our products and decreased prices, resulting in lower revenue levels and decreasing margins. We are not able to predict whether the global economic conditions will continue or worsen and the impact it may have on our operations and the industry in general going forward.
Capacity expansions within the mining industry could lead to lower global iron ore and coal prices, impacting our profitability.
Continued global growth of iron ore and coal demand, particularly from China, resulted in iron ore and metallurgical coal suppliers expanding their production capacity. The supply of both iron ore and metallurgical coal has increased due to these expansions. In the current iron ore and coal markets, an increase in our competitors’ capacity could result in excess supply of these commodities, resulting in downward pressure on prices. This decrease in pricing would adversely impact our sales, margins and profitability.
If steelmakers use methods other than blast furnace production to produce steel or use other inputs, or if their blast furnaces shut down or otherwise reduce production, the demand for our iron ore and coal products may decrease.
Demand for our iron ore and coal products is determined by the operating rates for the blast furnaces of steel companies. However, not all finished steel is produced by blast furnaces; finished steel also may be produced by other methods that use scrap steel, pig iron, hot briquetted iron and direct reduced iron. North American steel producers also can produce steel using imported iron ore or semi-finished steel products, which eliminates the need for domestic iron ore. Future environmental restrictions on the use of blast furnaces also may reduce our customers’ use of their blast furnaces. Maintenance of blast furnaces may require substantial capital expenditures. Our customers may choose not to maintain, or may not have the resources necessary to maintain, their blast furnaces. If our customers use methods to produce steel that do not use iron ore and coal products, demand for our iron ore and coal products will decrease, which would affect adversely our sales, margins and profitability.
Due to economic conditions and volatility in commodity prices, our customers could approach us about modification of their supply agreements. Modifications to our sales agreements potentially could be made due to such volatility, which could impact adversely our sales, margins, profitability and cash flows.
Although we have contractual commitments for sales in our U.S. Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore business for 2015 and beyond, the uncertainty in global economic conditions may adversely impact the ability of our customers to meet their obligations. As a result of such market volatility, our customers could approach us about modifying their supply agreements. Any modifications to our sales agreements could adversely impact our sales, margins, profitability and cash flows. These discussions or potential actions by our customers could also result in contractual disputes, which could ultimately require arbitration or litigation, either of which could be time consuming and costly. Any such disputes could impact adversely our sales, margins, profitability and cash flows.
II. REGULATORY RISKS
We are subject to extensive governmental regulation, which imposes, and will continue to impose, potential significant costs and liabilities on us. Future laws and regulation or the manner in which they are interpreted and enforced could increase these costs and liabilities or limit our ability to produce iron ore and coal products.
New laws or regulations, or changes in existing laws or regulations, or the manner of their interpretation or enforcement, could increase our cost of doing business and restrict our ability to operate our business or execute our strategies. This includes, among other things, the possible taxation under U.S. law of certain income from foreign operations, compliance costs and enforcement under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and costs associated with complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Healthcare and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 and the regulations promulgated thereunder. In addition, we are subject to various federal, provincial, state and local laws and regulations in each jurisdiction in which we have operations for employee health and safety, air quality, water pollution, plant, wetlands and wildlife protection, reclamation and restoration of mining properties, the discharge of materials into the environment, the effects that mining has on groundwater quality and availability, and related matters. Numerous governmental permits and approvals are required for our operations. We cannot be certain that we have been or will be at all times in complete compliance with such laws, regulations, permits and approvals. If we violate or fail to comply with these laws, regulations, permits or approvals, we could be fined or otherwise sanctioned by regulators. Compliance with the complex and extensive laws and regulations that we are subject to imposes substantial costs, which we expect will continue to increase over time because of increased regulatory oversight, adoption of increasingly stringent environmental standards, and increased demand for remediation services leading to shortages of equipment, supplies and labor, as well as other factors.
Specifically, there are several notable proposed or recently enacted rulemakings or activities to which we would be subject or that would further regulate and/or tax our customers, namely the North American integrated steel producer customers that may also require us or our customers to reduce or otherwise change operations significantly or incur significant additional costs, depending on their ultimate outcome. These emerging or recently enacted rules and regulations include: numerous air regulations, such as climate change and greenhouse gas regulation, regional haze regulation, NAAQS including but not limited to those for NO2 and SO2, the CSAPR; increased administrative and legislative initiatives related to coal mining activities; Minnesota’s Mercury Air Emissions Reporting and Reduction Rule, Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load requirements and Taconite Mercury Reduction Strategy; selenium discharge regulation; expansion of federal jurisdictional authority to regulate groundwater, and various other water quality regulations. Such new or more stringent legislation, regulations, interpretations or orders, when enacted, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition or profitability.
Although the numerous regulations, operating permits and our management systems mitigate potential impacts to the environment, our operations may inadvertently impact the environment or cause exposure to hazardous substances, which could result in material liabilities to us.
Our operations currently use and have used in the past, hazardous materials, and, from time to time, we have generated solid and hazardous waste. We may be subject to claims under federal, provincial, state and local laws and regulations for toxic torts, natural resource damages and other damages as well as for the investigation and clean-up of soil, surface water, sediments, groundwater and other natural resources. Such claims for damages and reclamation may arise out of current or former conditions at sites that we own, lease or operate currently, as well as sites that we or our acquired companies have owned, leased or operated, and at contaminated sites that have always been owned, leased or operated by our joint-venture partners. Our liability for such claims may be joint and several, so that we may be held responsible for more than our share of the contamination or other damages, or even for the entire share. We are subject to a variety of potential liability exposures arising, or otherwise involved in remediation activities, at certain sites. In addition to currently owned, leased or operated sites, these include sites where we formerly conducted iron ore and/or coal mining or processing or other operations, inactive sites that we currently own, predecessor sites, acquired sites, leased land sites and third-party waste disposal sites. We may be named as a responsible party at other sites in the future and we cannot be certain that the costs associated with these additional sites will not be material.
We also could be held liable for any and all consequences arising out of human exposure to hazardous substances used, released, or disposed of by us. In particular, we and certain of our subsidiaries are involved in various claims relating to the exposure of asbestos and silica to seamen who sailed until the mid-1980s on the Great Lakes vessels formerly owned and operated by certain of our subsidiaries. The full impact of these claims continues to be unknown. Uncertainty also remains as to whether insurance coverage will be sufficient and whether other defendants named in these claims will be able to fund any costs arising out of these claims.
Environmental impacts as a result of our operations, including exposures to hazardous substances or wastes associated with our operations, could result in costs and liabilities that could materially and adversely affect our margins, cash flow or profitability.
We may be unable to obtain and renew permits necessary for our operations, which could reduce our production, cash flows and profitability. We also could face significant permit and approval requirements that could delay our commencement or continuation of exploration and production operations, which, in turn, could affect materially our cash flows and profitability.
Prior to commencement of mining, we must submit to and obtain approval from the appropriate regulatory authority of plans showing where and how mining and reclamation operations are to occur. These plans must include information such as the location of mining areas, stockpiles, surface waters, haul roads, tailings basins and drainage from mining operations. All requirements imposed by any such authority may be costly and time-consuming and may delay commencement or continuation of exploration or production operations.
Mining companies must obtain numerous permits that impose strict conditions on various environmental and safety matters in connection with coal and iron ore mining. These include permits issued by various federal, state and provincial agencies and regulatory bodies. The permitting rules are complex and may change over time, making our ability to comply with the applicable requirements more difficult or impractical and costly, possibly precluding the continuance of ongoing operations or the development of future mining operations. The public, including special interest groups and individuals, have certain rights under various statutes to comment upon, submit objections to, and otherwise engage in the permitting process, including bringing citizens’ lawsuits to challenge such permits or mining activities. Accordingly, required permits may not be issued or renewed in a timely fashion (or at all), or permits issued or renewed may be conditioned in a manner that may restrict our ability to efficiently conduct our mining activities. Such inefficiencies could reduce our production, cash flows and profitability.
Our North American coal operations are subject to increasing levels of regulatory oversight making it more difficult to obtain and maintain necessary operating permits.
The current political and regulatory environment in the U.S. is disposed negatively toward coal mining, with particular focus on certain categories of mining such as mountaintop removal techniques. Therefore, our coal mining operations in North America are subject to increasing levels of scrutiny. Although we do not engage in mountaintop mining, emerging U.S. regulatory efforts targeted at eliminating or minimizing the adverse environmental impacts of mountaintop and underground coal mining practices have impacted all types of coal operations. These regulatory initiatives could cause material impacts, delays, or disruptions to our coal operations due to our inability to obtain new or renewed permits or modifications to existing permits.
Underground mining is subject to increased safety regulation and may require us to incur additional compliance costs.
Recent mine disasters have led to the enactment and consideration of significant new federal and state laws and regulations relating to safety in underground coal mines. These laws and regulations include requirements for constructing and maintaining caches for the storage of additional self-contained self-rescuers throughout underground mines; installing rescue chambers in underground mines; continuous tracking of and communication with personnel in the mines; installing cable lifelines from the mine portal to all sections of the mine to assist in emergency escape; submission and approval of emergency response plans; and new and additional safety training. Additionally, new requirements for the prompt reporting of accidents and increased fines and penalties for violations of these and existing regulations have been implemented. These new laws and regulations may cause us to incur substantial additional costs, which may impact adversely our results of operations, financial condition or profitability.
A substantial majority of our sales are made under term supply agreements to a limited number of customers that contain price-adjustment clauses that could affect adversely the stability and profitability of our operations.
In 2014, a majority of our U.S. Iron Ore, North American Coal and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore sales, and almost all of our Asia Pacific Iron Ore sales were made under term supply agreements to a limited number of customers. In 2014, five customers together accounted for approximately 72 percent of our U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, and North American Coal product sales revenues (representing more than 57 percent of our consolidated revenues). For North American Coal, prices typically are agreed upon for a 12-month period and typically are adjusted each year. Our Asia Pacific Iron Ore contracts are due to expire at various dates until March 2015 for our Chinese and Japanese customers. As of December 31, 2014, our U.S. Iron Ore contracts had an average remaining duration of four years. We cannot be certain that we will be able to renew or replace existing term supply agreements at approximately the same volume levels, prices or with similar profit margins when they expire. A loss of sales to our existing customers could have a substantial negative impact on our sales, margins and profitability.
Our U.S. Iron Ore term supply agreements contain a number of price adjustment provisions, including price escalators and adjustments based on general industrial inflation rates, the price of steel and the international price of iron ore pellets, among other factors, that are out of our control and that may adjust the prices under those agreements generally on an annual basis.
Changes in credit ratings issued by nationally recognized statistical rating organizations could adversely affect our cost of financing and the market price of our securities.
Credit rating agencies could downgrade our ratings either due to factors specific to our business, a prolonged cyclical downturn in the mining industry, or macroeconomic trends (such as global or regional recessions) and trends in credit and capital markets more generally. Any decline in our credit ratings would likely result in an increase to our cost of financing, including resulting in an increase of the interest rate applicable on these senior notes, limit our access to the capital markets, significantly harm our financial condition and results of operations, hinder our ability to refinance existing indebtedness on acceptable terms and have an adverse effect on the market price of our securities.
We rely on our joint venture partners in our mines to meet their payment obligations and we are subject to risks involving the acts or omissions of our joint venture partners when we are not the manager of the joint venture.
We co-own and manage three of our five U.S. Iron Ore mines and one of our two Eastern Canadian Iron Ore mines with various joint venture partners that are integrated steel producers or their subsidiaries, including ArcelorMittal, U.S. Steel Canada Inc., and WISCO. We rely on our joint venture partners to make their required capital contributions and to pay for their share of the iron ore that each joint venture produces. Our U.S. Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore joint venture partners are also our customers. If one or more of our joint venture partners fail to perform their obligations, the remaining joint venture partners, including ourselves, may be required to assume additional material obligations, including significant capital contribution, pension and postretirement health and life insurance benefit obligations. The premature closure of a mine due to the failure of a joint venture partner to perform its obligations could result in significant fixed mine-closure costs, including severance, employment legacy costs and other employment costs; reclamation and other environmental costs; and the costs of terminating long-term obligations, including energy and transportation contracts and equipment leases. For example, with respect to the Bloom Lake mine, CQIM's joint venture partner did not fully participate in calls for capital contributions, resulting in additional financial burden for CQIM. This additional burden was one of multiple factors in CQIM's decision to file for a stay under CCAA.
We cannot control the actions of our joint venture partners, especially when we have a minority interest in a joint venture. Further, in spite of performing customary due diligence prior to entering into a joint venture, we cannot guarantee full disclosure of prior acts or omissions of the sellers or those with whom we enter into joint ventures. Such risks could have a material adverse effect on the business, results of operations or financial condition of our joint venture interests.
We may not be able to recover the carrying value when divesting assets or businesses.
When we divest assets or businesses, we may not be able to recover the carrying value of these assets, which potentially could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations, shareholders' equity and capital structure. Also, if we were to sell a percentage of a business, there are inherent risks of a joint venture relationship as noted in the risk factor above.
Our ability to collect payments from our customers depends on their creditworthiness.
Our ability to receive payment for products sold and delivered to our customers depends on the creditworthiness of our customers. With respect to our Asia Pacific business unit, payment typically is received as the products are shipped and much of the product is secured by bank letters of credit. By contrast, in our U.S. Iron Ore business unit, generally, we deliver iron ore products to our customers’ facilities in advance of payment for those products. Under this practice for our U.S. customers, title and risk of loss with respect to U.S. Iron Ore products does not pass to the customer until payment for the pellets is received; however, there is typically a period of time in which pellets, for which we have reserved title, are within our customers’ control. Where we have identified credit risk with certain customers, we have put in place alternate payment terms from time to time.
Consolidations in some of the industries in which our customers operate have created larger customers. These factors have caused some customers to be less profitable and increased our exposure to credit risk. Customers in other countries may be subject to other pressures and uncertainties that may affect their ability to pay, including trade barriers, exchange controls, and local, economic and political conditions. Downturns in the economy and disruptions in the global financial markets in recent years have affected the creditworthiness of our customers from time to time. Some of our customers are highly leveraged. If economic conditions worsen or prolonged global, national or regional economic recession conditions return, it is likely to impact significantly the creditworthiness of our customers and could, in turn, increase the risk we bear on payment default for the credit we provide to our customers and could limit our ability to collect receivables. Failure to receive payment from our customers for products that we have delivered could affect adversely our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity.
Our operating expenses could increase significantly if the price of electrical power, fuel or other energy sources increases.
Our mining operations require significant use of energy. Operating expenses at all of our mining locations are sensitive to changes in electricity prices and fuel prices, including diesel fuel and natural gas prices. These items make up approximately 25 to 30 percent in the aggregate of our operating costs in our U.S. Iron Ore locations, for example. Prices for electricity, natural gas and fuel oils can fluctuate widely with availability and demand levels from other users. During periods of peak usage, supplies of energy may be curtailed and we may not be able to purchase them at historical rates. A disruption in the transmission of energy, inadequate energy transmission infrastructure, or the termination of any of our energy supply contracts could interrupt our energy supply and affect adversely our operations. While we have some long-term contracts with electrical suppliers, we are exposed to fluctuations in energy costs that can affect our production costs. As an example, our mines in Minnesota are subject to changes in Minnesota Power’s rates, such as rate changes that are reviewed and approved by the state public utilities commission in response to an application filed by Minnesota Power. We also enter into market-based pricing supply contracts for natural gas and diesel fuel for use in our operations. Those contracts expose us to price increases in energy costs, which could cause our profitability to decrease significantly.
In addition, U.S. public utilities are expected to pass through additional capital and operating cost increases related to new or pending U.S. environmental regulations that are expected to require significant capital investment and use of cleaner fuels in the future and which may impact U.S. coal-fired generation capacity. We are estimating that power rates for our electricity-intensive operations could increase above 2014 levels by up to 13 percent by 2019, representing an increase of approximately $8 per MWh by 2019 for our U.S. operations. These environmental regulations are also forcing the future closure of the Presque Isle Power Plant in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan which supplies electricity to our mines in Michigan.
The availability of capital may be limited.
We may need to access the capital markets to finance ongoing operations, any development of existing mining properties and our other cash requirements. Our substantial indebtedness could make it more difficult for us to borrow money in the future and may reduce the amount of money available to finance our operations and other business activities and may have other detrimental consequences, including the following: requiring us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to the payment of principal, premium, if any, and interest on our debt, which will reduce funds available for other purposes; exposing us to the risk of increased interest costs if the underlying interest rates rise on our existing credit facility or other variable rate debt; making it more difficult to obtain surety bonds, letters of credit or other financing, particularly during periods in which credit markets are weak; causing a decline in our credit ratings; limiting our ability to compete with companies that are not as leveraged and that may be better positioned to withstand economic downturns; and limiting our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, and increasing our vulnerability to, changes in our business, the industry in which we compete and general economic and market conditions. If we further increase our indebtedness, the related risks that we now face, including those described above, could intensify. We cannot predict the general availability or accessibility of capital to finance such projects in the future.
We are subject to a variety of financial market risks.
Financial market risks include those caused by changes in the value of investments, changes in commodity prices, interest rates and foreign currency exchange rates. We have established policies and procedures to manage such risks; however, certain risks are beyond our control and our efforts to mitigate such risks may not be effective. These factors could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
Our existing and future indebtedness may limit cash flow available to invest in the ongoing needs of our business, which could prevent us from fulfilling our obligations under our senior notes.
As of December 31, 2014, we had an aggregate principal amount of $2,995.8 million of total debt, $308 million of which was secured (excluding outstanding letters of credit), and $290.9 million of cash on our balance sheet. Our level of indebtedness could have important consequences to you. For example, it could:
require us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to the payment of debt service, reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions and other general corporate purposes;
increase our vulnerability to adverse economic or industry conditions;
limit our ability to obtain additional financing in the future to enable us to react to changes in our business;
place us at a competitive disadvantage compared to businesses in our industry that have less indebtedness; or
limit our ability to pay dividends on or purchase or redeem our capital stock.
Our substantial level of indebtedness could limit our ability to obtain additional financing on acceptable terms or at all for working capital, capital expenditures and general corporate purposes. Our liquidity needs could vary significantly and may be affected by general economic conditions, industry trends, performance and many other factors not within our control. If we are unable to generate sufficient cash flow from operations in the future to service our debt, we may be required to refinance all or a portion of our existing debt. However, we may not be able to obtain any such new or additional debt on favorable terms or at all.
Additionally, any failure to comply with covenants in the instruments governing our debt could result in an event of default which, if not cured or waived, would have a material adverse effect on us.
We may not be able to generate sufficient cash to service all of our debt, and may be forced to take other actions to satisfy our obligations under our debt, which may not be successful.
Our ability to make scheduled payments on or to refinance our debt obligations, including our senior notes, and to fund planned capital expenditures and expansion efforts and any strategic alliances or acquisitions we may make in the future depends on our ability to generate cash in the future and our financial condition and operating performance, which are subject to prevailing economic and competitive conditions and to certain financial, business and other factors beyond our control. We cannot assure you that we will maintain a level of cash flows from operating activities sufficient to permit us to pay the principal, premium, if any, and interest on our debt, including our senior notes.
If our cash flows and capital resources are insufficient to fund our debt service obligations, we may be forced to reduce or delay investments and capital expenditures, or to sell assets, seek additional capital or restructure or refinance our debt, including our senior notes. Any refinancing of our debt could be at higher interest rates and may require us to
comply with more onerous covenants, which could further restrict our business operations. These measures may not be successful and may not permit us to meet our scheduled debt service obligations. If our operating results and available cash are insufficient to meet our debt service obligations, we could face substantial liquidity problems and might be required to dispose of material assets or operations to meet our debt service and other obligations. We may not be able to consummate those dispositions or to obtain the proceeds that we could realize from them, and these proceeds may not be adequate to meet any debt service obligations then due. Further, we may need to refinance all or a portion of our debt on or before maturity, and we cannot assure you that we will be able to refinance any of our debt on commercially reasonable terms or at all.
We are subject to risks relating to the CCAA filing by the Bloom Lake Group.
The Bloom Lake Group commenced the CCAA process in January 2015 to address the Bloom Lake Group’s immediate liquidity issues and to preserve and protect its assets for the benefit of all stakeholders while restructuring and/or sale options are explored. Certain obligations of the Bloom Lake Group, including equipment loans, were guaranteed by Cliffs. It is possible that (a) as part of the CCAA process (i) claims may be asserted by or on behalf of the Bloom Lake Group against non-debtor affiliates of the Bloom Lake Group and/or (ii) claims of non-debtor affiliates against the Bloom Lake Group may be challenged and (b) creditors of the Bloom Lake Group may assert claims against non-debtor affiliates of the Bloom Lake Group under the guarantees discussed above. While we anticipate the restructuring and/or sale of the Bloom Lake Group assets may mitigate these risks, to the extent that any claims are successful or the Bloom Lake Group’s obligations guaranteed by Cliffs are not satisfied in full by any such restructuring or sale, Cliffs could be held liable for certain obligations.
IV. OPERATIONAL RISKS
Mine closures entail substantial costs. If we close one or more of our mines, our results of operations and financial condition would likely be affected adversely.
If we close any of our mines, our revenues would be reduced unless we were able to increase production at our other mines, which may not be possible. The closure of a mining operation involves significant fixed closure costs, including accelerated employment legacy costs, severance-related obligations, reclamation and other environmental costs, and the costs of terminating long-term obligations, including customer, energy and transportation contracts and equipment leases. We base our assumptions regarding the life of our mines on detailed studies we perform from time to time, but those studies and assumptions are subject to uncertainties and estimates that may not be accurate. We recognize the costs of reclaiming open pits and shafts, stockpiles, tailings ponds, roads and other mining support areas based on the estimated mining life of our property. If we were to significantly reduce the estimated life of any of our mines, the mine-closure costs would be applied to a shorter period of production, which would increase costs per ton produced and could significantly and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
A North American mine permanent closure could accelerate and significantly increase employment legacy costs, including our expense and funding costs for pension and other postretirement benefit obligations. A number of employees would be eligible for immediate retirement under special eligibility rules that apply upon a mine closure. All employees eligible for immediate retirement under the pension plans at the time of the permanent mine closure also could be eligible for postretirement health and life insurance benefits, thereby accelerating our obligation to provide these benefits. Certain mine closures would precipitate a pension closure liability significantly greater than an ongoing operation liability. Finally, a permanent mine closure could trigger severance-related obligations, which can equal up to sixteen weeks of pay per employee in some jurisdictions, depending on length of service. As a result, the closure of one or more of our mines could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
At the end of March 2014, we idled our Wabush Scully mine in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in the fourth quarter of 2014, we began to implement the permanent closure plan for the mine. Additionally, we disclosed in November 2014 that we were pursuing exit options for our Bloom Lake mine and as disclosed in January 2015, active production at Bloom Lake mine has completely ceased and the mine has transitioned to "care-and-maintenance" mode. To mitigate closure costs in connection with the potential shutdown of the Bloom Lake mine, our Canadian affiliates that operate the mine commenced restructuring proceedings under the CCAA. However, there can be no assurance that we will not have any material obligations in connection with the potential shutdown of the Bloom Lake mine despite the CCAA filing.
Our sales and competitive position depend on the ability to transport our products to our customers at competitive rates and in a timely manner.
In our U.S. Iron Ore operations, disruption of the lake and ocean-going vessels and rail transportation services because of weather-related problems, including ice and winter weather conditions on the Great Lakes or St. Lawrence Seaway, climate change, strikes, lock-outs, or other events and lack of alternative transportation sources, could impair our ability to supply iron ore to our customers at competitive rates or in a timely manner and, thus, could adversely affect our sales, margins and profitability. Similarly, our North American Coal operations depend on international vessels and rail transportation services, as well as the availability of dock capacity, and any disruptions to those services or the lack of dock capacity could impair our ability to supply coal to our customers at competitive rates or in a timely manner and, thus, could adversely affect our sales and profitability. Further, reduced dredging and environmental changes, particularly at Great Lakes ports, could impact negatively our ability to move our iron ore and coal products because lower water levels restrict the tonnage that vessels can haul, resulting in higher freight rates.
Our Asia Pacific Iron Ore operations also are dependent upon rail and port capacity. Disruptions in rail service or availability of dock capacity could similarly impair our ability to supply iron ore to our customers, thereby adversely affecting our sales and profitability. In addition, our Asia Pacific Iron Ore operations are also in direct competition with the major world seaborne exporters of iron ore and our customers face higher transportation costs than most other Australian producers to ship our products to the Asian markets because of the location of our major shipping port on the south coast of Australia. Further, increases in transportation costs, including volatile fuel rates, decreased availability of ocean vessels or changes in such costs relative to transportation costs incurred by our competitors could make our products less competitive, restrict our access to certain markets and have an adverse effect on our sales, margins and profitability.
Natural disasters, weather conditions, disruption of energy, unanticipated geological conditions, equipment failures, and other unexpected events may lead our customers, our suppliers or our facilities to curtail production or shut down operations.
Operating levels within the mining industry are subject to unexpected conditions and events that are beyond the industry’s control. Those events could cause industry members or their suppliers to curtail production or shut down a portion or all of their operations, which could reduce the demand for our iron ore and coal products, and could affect adversely our sales, margins and profitability.
Interruptions in production capabilities inevitably will increase our production costs and reduce our profitability. We do not have meaningful excess capacity for current production needs, and we are not able to quickly increase production at one mine to offset an interruption in production at another mine.
A portion of our production costs are fixed regardless of current operating levels. As noted, our operating levels are subject to conditions beyond our control that can delay deliveries or increase the cost of mining at particular mines for varying lengths of time. These include weather conditions (for example, extreme winter weather, tornadoes, floods, and the lack of availability of process water due to drought) and natural and man-made disasters, pit wall failures, unanticipated geological conditions, including variations in the amount of rock and soil overlying the deposits of iron ore and coal, variations in rock and other natural materials and variations in geologic conditions and ore processing changes.
The manufacturing processes that take place in our mining operations, as well as in our processing facilities, depend on critical pieces of equipment. This equipment may, on occasion, be out of service because of unanticipated failures. In addition, many of our mines and processing facilities have been in operation for several decades, and the equipment is aged. In the future, we may experience additional material plant shutdowns or periods of reduced production because of equipment failures. Further, remediation of any interruption in production capability may require us to make large capital expenditures that could have a negative effect on our profitability and cash flows. Our business interruption insurance would not cover all of the lost revenues associated with equipment failures. Longer-term business disruptions could result in a loss of customers, which adversely could affect our future sales levels and, therefore, our profitability.
Regarding the impact of unexpected events happening to our suppliers, many of our mines are dependent on one source for electric power and for natural gas. A significant interruption in service from our energy suppliers due to terrorism, weather conditions, natural disasters, or any other cause can result in substantial losses that may not be fully recoverable, either from our business interruption insurance or responsible third parties.
We are subject to risks involving operations and sales in multiple countries.
We supply raw materials to the global integrated steel industry with substantial assets located outside of the U.S. We conduct operations in the U.S., Canada and Australia. As such, we are subject to additional risks beyond those relating to our U.S. operations, such as fluctuations in currency exchange rates; potentially adverse tax consequences due to overlapping or differing tax structures; burdens to comply with multiple and potentially conflicting foreign laws and regulations, including export requirements, tariffs, economic sanctions and other barriers, environmental health and safety requirements, and unexpected changes in any of these laws and regulations; the imposition of duties, tariffs, import and export controls and other trade barriers impacting the seaborne iron ore and coal markets; difficulties in staffing and managing multi-national operations; political and economic instability and disruptions, including terrorist attacks; disadvantages of competing against companies from countries that are not subject to U.S. laws and regulations, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; and uncertainties in the enforcement of legal rights and remedies in multiple jurisdictions. If we are unable to manage successfully the risks associated with operating our global business, these risks could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations or financial condition.
Our profitability could be affected adversely by the failure of outside contractors to perform.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore uses contractors to handle many of the operational phases of their mining and processing operations and, therefore, we are subject to the performance of outside companies on key production areas. A failure of any of these contractors to perform in a significant way would result in additional costs for us, which also could affect adversely our production rates and results of operations.
Coal mining is complex due to geological characteristics of the region.
The geological characteristics of coal reserves, such as depth of overburden and coal seam thickness, make them complex and costly to mine. As mines become depleted, replacement reserves may not be available when required or, if available, may not be capable of being mined at costs comparable to those characteristic of the depleting mines, and, therefore, decisions to defer mine development activities may adversely impact our ability to substantially increase future coal production. These factors could materially adversely affect our mining operations and cost structures, which could affect adversely our sales, profitability and cash flows.
We may not be able to complete divestitures of our non-core assets at acceptable prices or at all.
As an extension of our re-focused U.S. Iron Ore strategy, we are currently in the process of streamlining our portfolio of non-core assets. Asia Pacific Iron Ore, North American Coal and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore have been identified as non-core assets and will be considered for monetization. However, we may not be able to sell any non-core assets at sales prices acceptable to us or at all. Gains or losses on the sales of, or lost operating income from, non-core assets may affect our profitability. Moreover, we may incur asset impairment charges related to divestitures that reduce our profitability. Our divestiture activities may also present financial, managerial and operational risks. Those risks include diversion of management attention from existing businesses, difficulties separating personnel and financial and other systems, adverse effects on existing business relationships with suppliers and customers and indemnities and potential disputes with the buyers. Any of these factors could affect our financial condition and results of operations.
V. DEVELOPMENT AND SUSTAINABILITY RISKS
The cost and time to implement a strategic capital project may prove to be greater than originally anticipated.
We undertake strategic capital projects in order to enhance, expand or upgrade our mines and production capabilities. Our ability to achieve the anticipated increased volumes, revenues or otherwise realize acceptable returns on strategic capital projects that we may undertake is subject to a number of risks, many of which are beyond our control, including a variety of market (such as a volatile pricing environment for iron ore), operational, permitting and labor-related factors. Further, the cost to implement any given strategic capital project ultimately may prove to be greater and may take more time than originally anticipated. Inability to achieve the anticipated results from the implementation of our strategic capital projects, or the incurring of unanticipated implementation costs, penalties or inability to meet contractual obligations could affect adversely our results of operations and future earnings and cash flow generation.
We continually must replace reserves depleted by production. Our exploration activities may not result in additional discoveries.
Our ability to replenish our ore reserves is important to our long-term viability. Depleted ore reserves must be replaced by further delineation of existing ore bodies or by locating new deposits in order to maintain production levels over the long term. Resource exploration and development are highly speculative in nature. Our exploration projects involve many risks, require substantial expenditures and may not result in the discovery of sufficient additional mineral deposits that can be mined profitably. Once a site with mineralization is discovered, it may take several years from the initial phases of drilling until production is possible, during which time the economic feasibility of production may change. Substantial expenditures are required to establish recoverable proven and probable reserves and to construct mining and processing facilities. As a result, there is no assurance that current or future exploration programs will be successful and there is a risk that depletion of reserves will not be offset by discoveries or acquisitions.
We rely on estimates of our recoverable reserves, which is complex due to geological characteristics of the properties and the number of assumptions made.
We regularly evaluate our iron ore and coal reserves based on revenues and costs and update them as required in accordance with SEC Industry Guide 7 and historically, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy & Petroleum's Definition Standards on Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves. In addition, our Asia Pacific Iron Ore business segment has published reserves that follow the Joint Ore Reserve Code in Australia, with certain changes to our Western Australian reserve values to make them comply with SEC requirements. There are numerous uncertainties inherent in estimating quantities of reserves of our mines, including many factors beyond our control.
Estimates of reserves and future net cash flows necessarily depend upon a number of variable factors and assumptions, such as production capacity, effects of regulations by governmental agencies, future prices for iron ore and coal, future industry conditions and operating costs, severance and excise taxes, development costs and costs of extraction and reclamation, all of which may vary considerably from actual results. Estimating the quantity and grade of reserves requires us to determine the size, shape and depth of our mineral bodies by analyzing geological data, such as samplings of drill holes, tunnels and other underground workings. In addition to the geology assumptions of our mines, assumptions are also required to determine the economic feasibility of mining these reserves, including estimates of future commodity prices and demand, the mining methods we use, and the related costs incurred to develop and mine our reserves. For these reasons, estimates of the economically recoverable quantities of mineralized deposits attributable to any particular group of properties, classifications of such reserves based on risk of recovery and estimates of future net cash flows prepared by different engineers or by the same engineers at different times may vary substantially as the criteria change. Estimated ore reserves could be affected by future industry conditions, geological conditions and ongoing mine planning. Actual volume and grade of reserves recovered, production rates, revenues and expenditures with respect to our reserves will likely vary from estimates, and if such variances are material, our sales and profitability could be affected adversely.
Defects in title or loss of any leasehold interests in our properties could limit our ability to mine these properties or result in significant unanticipated costs.
A portion of our mining operations are conducted on properties we lease, license or as to which we have easements or other possessory interests ("leased properties"). Consistent with industry practice, title to most of these leased properties and mineral rights are not usually verified until we make a commitment to develop a property, which may not occur until after we have obtained necessary permits and completed exploration of the leased property. In some cases, title with respect to leased properties is not verified at all because we instead rely on title information or representations and warranties provided by lessors or grantors. We do not maintain title insurance on our owned or leased properties. A title defect or the loss of any lease, license or easement for any leased property could adversely affect our ability to mine the associated reserves. In addition, from time to time the rights of third parties for competing uses of adjacent, overlying, or underlying lands such as for, roads, easements and public facilities may affect our ability to operate as planned if our title is not superior or arrangements cannot be negotiated.
Any challenge to our title could delay the exploration and development of some reserves, deposits or surface rights, cause us to incur unanticipated costs and could ultimately result in the loss of some or all of our interest in those reserves or surface rights. In the event we lose reserves, deposits or surface rights, we may have to shut down or significantly alter the sequence of our mining operations, which may adversely affect our future production, revenues and cash flows. Additionally, if we lose any leasehold interests relating to any of our preparation plants or loadout facilities, we may need to find an alternative location to process our iron ore or coal and load it for delivery to customers, which could result in significant unanticipated costs. Finally, we could incur significant liability if we inadvertently mine on property we do not own or lease.
In order to continue to foster growth in our business and maintain stability of our earnings, we must maintain our social license to operate with our stakeholders.
As a mining company, maintaining a strong reputation and consistent operational and safety history is vital in order to continue to foster growth and maintain stability in our earnings. As sustainability expectations increase and regulatory requirements continue to evolve, maintaining our social license to operate becomes increasingly important. We strive to incorporate social license expectations in our ERM program. Our ability to maintain our reputation and strong operating history could be threatened, including by circumstances outside of our control. If we are not able to respond effectively to these and other challenges to our social license to operate, our reputation could be damaged significantly. Damage to our reputation could affect adversely our operations and ability to foster growth in our Company.
Estimates and timelines relating to new development and expansion projects are uncertain and we may incur higher costs and lower economic returns than estimated.
Mine development and expansion projects projects typically require a number of years and significant expenditures during the development or expansion phase before production is possible. Such projects could experience unexpected problems and delays during development, construction and mine start-up or expansion.
Our decision to develop a project typically is based on the results of feasibility studies, which estimate the anticipated economic returns of a project. The actual project profitability or economic feasibility may differ from such estimates as a result of any of the following factors, among others: changes in tonnage, grades and metallurgical characteristics of ore to be mined and processed; estimated future prices of the relevant ore; changes in customer demand; higher construction and infrastructure costs; the quality of the data on which engineering assumptions were made; higher production costs; adverse geotechnical conditions; availability of adequate labor force; availability and cost of water and power; availability and cost of transportation; fluctuations in inflation and currency exchange rates; availability and terms of financing; delays in obtaining environmental or other government permits or changes in laws and regulations including environmental laws and regulations; weather or severe climate impacts; and potential delays relating to social and community issues.
Our future development activities may not result in the expansion or replacement of current production with new production, or one or more of these new production sites or facilities may be less profitable than currently anticipated, or may not be profitable at all, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our sales, margins and cash flows.
VI. HUMAN CAPITAL RISKS
Our profitability could be affected adversely if we fail to maintain satisfactory labor relations.
Production in our mines is dependent upon the efforts of our employees. We are party to labor agreements with various labor unions that represent employees at our operations. Such labor agreements are negotiated periodically, and, therefore, we are subject to the risk that these agreements may not be able to be renewed on reasonably satisfactory terms. It is difficult to predict what issues may arise as part of the collective bargaining process, and whether negotiations concerning these issues will be successful. Due to union activities or other employee actions, we could experience labor disputes, work stoppages, or other disruptions in our production of coal and iron ore that could affect us adversely. The USW represents all hourly employees at our U.S. Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations owned and/or managed by Cliffs or its subsidiary companies except for Northshore. Our labor agreements with the USW at four of our U.S. Iron Ore operations expire in September 2015. Since this is an expiration year for our labor agreements, there is an increased probability of a disruption at our U.S. Iron Ore operations in 2015.
If we enter into a new labor agreement with any union that significantly increases our labor costs relative to our competitors or fail to come to an agreement upon expiry, our ability to compete may be materially and adversely affected.
We may encounter labor shortages for critical operational positions, which could affect adversely our ability to produce our products.
We are predicting a long-term shortage of skilled workers for the mining industry and competition for the available workers limits our ability to attract and retain employees. Additionally, at our U.S. mining locations, many of our mining operational employees are approaching retirement age. As these experienced employees retire, we may have difficulty replacing them at competitive wages.
Our expenditures for post-retirement benefit and pension obligations could be materially higher than we have predicted if our underlying assumptions differ from actual outcomes, there are mine closures, or our joint venture partners fail to perform their obligations that relate to employee pension plans.
We provide defined benefit pension plans and OPEB to certain eligible union and non-union employees in North America, including our share of expense and funding obligations with respect to unconsolidated ventures. Our pension expense and our required contributions to our pension plans are affected directly by the value of plan assets, the projected and actual rate of return on plan assets, and the actuarial assumptions we use to measure our defined benefit pension plan obligations, including the rate at which future obligations are discounted.
We cannot predict whether changing market or economic conditions, regulatory changes or other factors will increase our pension expenses or our funding obligations, diverting funds we would otherwise apply to other uses.
Signatories to labor agreements with the UMWA have participated for decades in the 1974 PP. The 1974 PP has been underfunded for a number of years and has a current total underfunded liability in excess of $4.3 billion. Our Pinnacle and Oak Grove mines are signatories to labor agreements with the UMWA, making them participants in the 1974 PP. If Pinnacle or Oak Grove were to withdraw from the 1974 PP or if a mass withdrawal were to occur, we would become obligated to satisfy the withdrawal liability owed to the 1974 PP.
We have calculated our unfunded pension and OPEB obligations based on a number of assumptions. If our assumptions do not materialize as expected, cash expenditures and costs that we incur could be materially higher. Moreover, we cannot be certain that regulatory changes will not increase our obligations to provide these or additional benefits. These obligations also may increase substantially in the event of adverse medical cost trends or unexpected rates of early retirement, particularly for bargaining unit retirees.
We depend on our senior management team and other key employees, and the loss of these employees could adversely affect our business.
Our success depends in part on our ability to attract and motivate our senior management and key employees. Achieving this objective may be difficult due to a variety of factors, including fluctuations in the global economic and industry conditions, competitors’ hiring practices, cost reduction activities, and the effectiveness of our compensation programs. Competition for qualified personnel can be intense. We must continue to recruit, retain, and motivate our senior management and key personnel in order to maintain our business and support our projects. A loss of senior management and key personnel could prevent us from capitalizing on business opportunities, and our operating results could be adversely affected.
Unresolved Staff Comments
We have no unresolved comments from the SEC.
The following map shows the locations of our operations and offices as of December 31, 2014:
General Information about the Mines
All of our iron ore mining operations are open-pit mines. Additional pit development is underway as required by long-range mine plans. At our U.S. Iron Ore and Asia Pacific Iron Ore mines, drilling programs are conducted periodically for the purpose of refining guidance related to ongoing operations.
Our North American Coal operations consist of underground mines. Drilling programs are conducted periodically for the purpose of refining guidance related to ongoing operations.
Geologic models are developed for all mines to define the major ore and waste rock types. Computerized block models for iron ore and stratigraphic models for coal are constructed that include all relevant geologic and metallurgical data. These are used to generate grade and tonnage estimates, followed by detailed mine design and life of mine operating schedules.
U.S. Iron Ore
The following map shows the locations of our U.S. Iron Ore operations as of December 31, 2014:
We directly or indirectly own and operate interests in five U.S. Iron Ore mines located in Michigan and Minnesota from which we produced 22.4 million, 20.3 million and 22.0 million tons of iron ore pellets in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively, for our account. We produced 7.3 million, 6.9 million and 7.5 million tons, respectively, on behalf of the steel company partners of the mines.
Our U.S. Iron Ore mines produce from deposits located within the Biwabik and Negaunee Iron Formation, which are classified as Lake Superior type iron formations that formed under similar sedimentary conditions in shallow marine basins approximately two billion years ago. Magnetite and hematite are the predominant iron oxide ore minerals present, with lesser amounts of goethite and limonite. Quartz is the predominant waste mineral present, with lesser amounts of other chiefly iron bearing silicate and carbonate minerals. The ore minerals liberate from the waste minerals upon fine grinding.
Current Annual Capacity1,2
1 Annual capacity is reported on a wet basis in millions of long tons, equivalent to 2,240 pounds.
2 Figures reported on 100% basis.
3 2014 Production from Empire includes 2.4 million long tons tolled to Tilden.
The Empire mine is located on the Marquette Iron Range in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula approximately 15 miles southwest of Marquette, Michigan. The Empire mine has produced between 3.0 million and 4.9 million tons of iron ore pellets annually over the past five years, of which between 1.3 million and 2.4 million tons annually over the past five years were tolled to Tilden mine.
We own 79 percent of Empire and a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal USA has retained the remaining 21 percent ownership in Empire with limited rights and obligations, which it has a unilateral right to put to us at any time. This right has not been exercised. Each partner takes its share of production pro rata; however, provisions in the partnership agreement allow additional or reduced production to be delivered under certain circumstances. We own directly
approximately one-half of the remaining ore reserves at the Empire mine and lease them to Empire. A subsidiary of ours leases the balance of the Empire reserves from other owners of such reserves and subleases them to Empire. Operations consist of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, AG mills, magnetic separation and floatation to produce a magnetite concentrate that is then supplied to the on-site pellet plant.
The Tilden mine is located on the Marquette Iron Range in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula approximately five miles south of Ishpeming, Michigan. Over the past five years, the Tilden mine has produced between 7.5 million and 7.8 million tons of iron ore pellets annually. We own 85 percent of Tilden, with the remaining minority interest owned by a subsidiary of U.S. Steel Canada Inc. Each partner takes its share of production pro rata; however, provisions in the partnership agreement allow additional or reduced production to be delivered under certain circumstances. We own all of the ore reserves at the Tilden mine and lease them to Tilden. Operations consist of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, AG mills, magnetite separation and floatation to produce hematite and magnetic concentrates that are then supplied to the on-site pellet plant.
The Empire and Tilden mines are located adjacent to each other. The logistical benefits include a consolidated transportation system, more efficient employee and equipment operating schedules, reduction in redundant facilities and workforce and best practices sharing. Two railroads, one of which is wholly owned by us, link the Empire and Tilden mines with Lake Michigan at the loading port of Escanaba, Michigan and with the Lake Superior loading port of Marquette, Michigan.
The Hibbing mine is located in the center of Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range and is approximately ten miles north of Hibbing, Minnesota and five miles west of Chisholm, Minnesota. Over the past five years, the Hibbing mine has produced between 5.9 million and 8.1 million tons of iron ore pellets annually. We own 23 percent of Hibbing, a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal has a 62.3 percent interest and a subsidiary of U.S. Steel has a 14.7 percent interest. Each partner takes its share of production pro rata; however, provisions in the joint venture agreement allow additional or reduced production to be delivered under certain circumstances. Mining is conducted on multiple mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. Hibbing operations consist of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, AG mills and magnetic separation to produce a magnetite concentrate, which is then delivered to an on-site pellet plant. From the site, pellets are transported by BNSF rail to a ship loading port at Superior, Wisconsin operated by BNSF.
The Northshore mine is located in northeastern Minnesota, approximately two miles south of Babbitt, Minnesota on the northeastern end of the Mesabi Iron Range. Northshore’s processing facilities are located in Silver Bay, Minnesota, near Lake Superior. Crude ore is shipped by a wholly owned railroad from the mine to the processing and dock facilities at Silver Bay. Over the past five years, the Northshore mine has produced between 3.9 million and 5.8 million tons of iron ore pellets annually. Two of the four production lines at Northshore were idled beginning January 5, 2013 but the idled lines reopened during the first quarter of 2014. One of the four furnaces in the Northshore pellet plant became idled in January 2015 and is expected to remain idled throughout the year. The Northshore mine began production under our management and ownership on October 1, 1994. We own 100 percent of the mine. Mining is conducted on multiple mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. Northshore operations consist of an open pit truck and shovel mine where two stages of crushing occur before the ore is transported along a wholly owned 47-mile rail line to the plant site in Silver Bay. At the plant site, two additional stages of crushing occur before the ore is sent to the concentrator. The concentrator utilizes rod mills and magnetic separation to produce a magnetite concentrate, which is delivered to the pellet plant located on-site. The plant site has its own ship loading port located on Lake Superior.
United Taconite Mine
The United Taconite mine is located on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range in and around the city of Eveleth, Minnesota. The United Taconite concentrator and pelletizing facilities are located ten miles south of the mine, near the town of Forbes, Minnesota. Over the past five years, the United Taconite mine has produced between 4.9 million and 5.4 million tons of iron ore pellets annually. We own 100 percent of the mine. Mining is conducted on multiple mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. United Taconite operations consist of an open pit truck and shovel mine where two stages of crushing occur before the ore is transported by rail to the plant site located ten miles to the south. At the plant site an additional stage of crushing occurs before the ore is sent to the concentrator. The concentrator utilizes rod mills and magnetic separation to produce a magnetite concentrate, which is delivered to the pellet plant. From the site, pellets are transported by CN rail to a ship loading port at Duluth, Minnesota operated by CN.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore
The following map shows the location of our Asia Pacific Iron Ore operation as of December 31, 2014:
In Australia, we own and operate the Koolyanobbing operations and owned and operated a 50 percent interest in the Cockatoo Island iron ore mine until we sold it in September 2012. We produced 11.4 million metric tons, 11.1 million metric tons and 11.3 million metric tons in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. The 2012 production tons include tons produced at the Koolyanobbing operations and the Cockatoo Island iron ore mine.
The mineralization at the Koolyanobbing operations is predominantly hematite and goethite replacements in greenstone-hosted banded iron formations. Individual deposits tend to be small with complex ore-waste contact relationships. The reserves at the Koolyanobbing operations are derived from 10 separate mineral deposits distributed over a 70 mile operating radius.
1 Annual capacity is reported on a wet basis in millions of metric tons, equivalent to 2,205 pounds.
The Koolyanobbing operations are located 250 miles east of Perth and approximately 30 miles northeast of the town of Southern Cross. Koolyanobbing produces lump and fines iron ore. Mining is conducted on multiple mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases routinely are renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. In 2011, a significant permitting milestone was achieved with the granting of regulatory approvals necessary to develop above the water table at Windarling's W1 deposit. In 2013, environmental approvals were obtained for deepening of the Windarling W1 pit and deepening of the Koolyanobbing A/B/C pits.
Over the past five years, the Koolyanobbing operation has produced between 8.2 million and 11.4 million metric tons annually. The expansion project at Koolyanobbing increasing annual capacity to 11 million metric tons was completed in 2012. Ore material is sourced from nine separate open pit mines and delivered by typical production trucks or road trains to a crushing and screening facility located at Koolyanobbing. All of the ore from the Koolyanobbing operations is transported by rail to the Port of Esperance, 360 miles to the south, for shipment to Asian customers.
North American Coal
The following map shows the locations of our North American Coal operations as of December 31, 2014:
Throughout 2014, we directly owned and operated three North American coal mining complexes from which we produced a total of 7.5 million, 7.2 million and 6.4 million tons of coal in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. We no longer own CLCC as the sale of the CLCC assets was completed on December 31, 2014, and therefore CLCC is not denoted on the map above. The production tons include 2.5 million tons, 2.1 million tons and 2.2 million tons of coal produced by CLCC in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively. Our coal production at each mine is shipped within the U.S. by rail or barge. Coal for international customers is shipped through the ports of Mobile, Alabama; Norfolk, Virginia; and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Coal seams mined at all of our North American Coal operations are Pennsylvanian Age and derived from the Pocahontas 3 and 4 seams at the Pinnacle Complex and the Blue Creek Seam at Oak Grove, which produce high quality, low ash metallurgical products.
Primary Coal Type
Current Annual Capacity1
U/G Mine, Preparation Plant, Load-out
U/G Mine, Preparation Plant, Load-out
1 Annual capacity is on a wet basis in millions of short tons, equivalent to 2,000 pounds.
The Pinnacle Complex includes the Pinnacle and Green Ridge mines and is located approximately 30 miles southwest of Beckley, West Virginia. The Pinnacle mine has been in operation since 1969. Over the past five years, the Pinnacle mine has produced between 1.1 million and 2.8 million tons of coal annually. The Green Ridge mines became operational in 2004 and have ranged from no production to 0.1 million tons of coal annually in the last five years. In February 2010, the Green Ridge No. 1 mine was closed permanently due to exhaustion of the economic reserves at the mine. In addition, the Green Ridge No. 2 mine was idled in January 2012. Pinnacle utilizes continuous miners and a longwall plow system; Green Ridge utilizes only continuous miners. Both facilities share preparation, processing and load-out facilities.
The Oak Grove mine is located approximately 25 miles southwest of Birmingham, Alabama. The mine has been in operation since 1972. Over the past five years, the Oak Grove mine has produced between 1.0 million and 2.3 million tons of coal annually. In 2011, a new shaft and support facilities were commissioned in order to reduce the transport time for supplies and personnel to the working face. The previous shaft still is utilized in a support role. Oak Grove utilizes a long wall shearer with continuous miners. Preparation, processing and rail load-out facilities are located on-site. The preparation plant at Oak Grove incurred significant tornado damage during 2011. The plant rebuild included new equipment and improvements to the process design that enhanced the performance of the plant, which returned to normal operating capacity in January 2012.
Eastern Canadian Iron Ore
The following map shows the locations of our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations as of December 31, 2014:
We own interests in two non-operating iron ore mines in the Canadian Provinces of Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador from which we had been producing iron ore concentrate through December 2014 and produced iron ore pellets through June 2013. We produced 6.2 million, 8.7 million and 8.5 million metric tons of iron ore product in 2014, 2013 and 2012, respectively, from these two mines. In May 2011, we acquired Consolidated Thompson along with its 75 percent interest in the Bloom Lake property. In the fourth quarter of 2013, our interest in Bloom Lake increased by an aggregate of 7.8 percent, bringing our interest to 82.8 percent in the Bloom Lake property.
Our Eastern Canadian mines had been producing from deposits located within the area known as the Labrador Trough and are composed of iron formations, which are classified as Lake Superior type. Lake Superior type iron formations consist of banded sedimentary rocks that formed under similar conditions in shallow marine basins approximately two billion years ago. The Labrador Trough region experienced considerable metamorphism and folding of the original iron deposits. Magnetite and hematite are the predominant iron oxide ore minerals present, with lesser amounts of goethite and limonite. Quartz is the predominant waste mineral present, with lesser amounts of other chiefly iron bearing silicate minerals. The ore minerals liberate from the waste minerals upon fine grinding.
Current Annual Capacity1, 2
1 Annual capacity is reported on a wet basis in millions of metric tons, equivalent to 2,205 pounds.
2 Figures reported on 100% basis.
3 At the end of March 2014, we idled our Wabush Scully mine in Newfoundland and Labrador and began to implement the permanent closure plan for the mine.
4 In December 2014, iron ore production at the Bloom Lake mine was suspended and the Bloom Lake mine was placed in ‘‘care-and-maintenance’’ mode.
The Wabush mine has been in operation since 1965. Over the past five years, the Wabush mine has produced between 0.3 million and 3.9 million metric tons of iron ore pellets and concentrate annually. Mining was conducted on several mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases are routinely renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. The Wabush mine and concentrator are located in Wabush, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the pelletizing operations and dock facility are located in Pointe Noire, Québec. At the mine, operations consisted of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, AG mills and gravity separation to produce an iron concentrate. Concentrates had been shipped by rail 300 miles to Pointe Noire where they were pelletized through June 2013 for shipment via vessel within Canada, to the U.S. and other international destinations. Concentrates had been shipped directly from Pointe Noire for sinter feed.
As disclosed in the first quarter of 2014, at the end of March 2014, we idled our Wabush Scully mine in Newfoundland and Labrador and began to implement the permanent closure plan for the mine in October 2014. The idle and move to ultimate closure was driven by the unsustainable high cost structure. The pellet plant operations at Pointe Noire had been idled since the second quarter of 2013.
Bloom Lake Mine
The Bloom Lake mine and concentrator are located approximately nine miles southwest of Fermont, Québec. As previously mentioned, our acquisition of Consolidated Thompson in May 2011 included a 75 percent majority ownership in the Bloom Lake operation. During the fourth quarter of 2013, CQIM's interest in the property increased by an aggregate of 7.8 percent to 82.8 percent after CQIM paid both its own and WISCO’s proportionate shares of the cash call for the first half of 2013. As a result, WISCO's interest was diluted to 17.2 percent. Since the acquisition in May 2011, the Bloom Lake mine has produced between 3.5 million and 5.9 million metric tons of iron ore concentrate annually. Phase I of the Bloom Lake mine was commissioned in March 2010, and consisted of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, an AG mill and gravity separation to produce an iron concentrate. From the site, concentrate is transported 320 miles by rail to a ship loading port in Pointe Noire, Québec.
The Bloom Lake mine assets were included in the CCAA filing made in January 2015. For more information see "Eastern Canadian Iron Ore" in Item 1 - Business.
Advanced Exploration and Development Properties
The following map shows the locations of our advanced exploration and development properties as of December 31, 2014:
We have several advanced exploration projects located in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Québec in different stages of evaluation at this time. Work historically completed on these properties includes geological mapping, drilling and sampling programs, and initial and advance stage engineering studies. In alignment with our capital allocation strategy, we anticipate minimal levels of exploration spending to continue in 2015 and beyond.
Cliffs Chromite Ontario's primary assets are situated in the Ring of Fire area, James Bay lowlands, of northern Ontario. These chromite properties are located approximately 155 miles north of the town of Nakina (on the CN railroad mainline) and about 50 miles east of the First Nations community of Webequie. We have a controlling position in three chromite deposits that occur in close proximity to each other: a 100 percent interest in each of the Black Label and Black Thor chromite deposits and a 70 percent interest in the Big Daddy chromite deposit. KWG Resources Inc. owns the remaining 30 percent. We have completed a prefeasibility study on the Black Thor deposit, the largest of the three deposits. On November 20, 2013, we suspended indefinitely our Chromite Project in Northern Ontario. Earlier in 2013, prior to the indefinite suspension of our Chromite Project, we suspended the environmental assessment activities because of pending issues impeding the progress of the project. The Chromite Project remained suspended throughout 2014. Given the uncertain timeline and risks associated with the development of necessary infrastructure to bring this project online, we do not expect to allocate any significant additional capital to the project, and are currently seeking to exit the Chromite Project through a possible sale of all or part of the assets or holding subsidiaries.
These chromite deposits are orthomagmatic stratiform deposits of unusual thickness and size. Mineralization consists of chromite crystals [(Fe,Mg) (Cr,Al,Fe)2O4] ranging from massive chromite bands to interbedded and disseminated chromite.
The Decar Property is located 56 miles northwest of Fort St. James, British Columbia, Canada and consists of 60 mineral claims covering 95 square miles. We own a 60 percent interest in the Decar Property and First Point Minerals Corp. owns the remaining 40 percent. In 2012, 2011 and 2010, we performed exploration activities on the property and in 2013 completed a scoping study to further evaluate the potential economics and viability of an operation producing a high-grade nickel concentrate that could be marketable to various end users. In 2013, our interest in the property increased from 51 percent to 60 percent as a result of completing the scoping study in accordance with the 2009 option agreement between Cliffs and First Point Minerals. Our Decar project program for 2014 has consisted of basic ongoing activity related to First Nations engagement and baseline environmental studies completed early in 2014. During 2014, we limited spending on the Decar Property. Given the uncertain timeline and risks associated with the development of necessary infrastructure to bring this project online, we do not expect to allocate any significant additional capital to the project.
The mineralization consists of the nickel-iron alloy awaruite (Ni2-3Fe). Awaruite is disseminated in serpentinized peridotite; it occurs as relatively coarse grains between 50 to 400 µm in size. Awaruite has been observed throughout the entire extent of the peridotite but four zones of stronger mineralization have been identified. The four zones are the Baptiste, Sidney, Target B and Van targets. Prior to suspending spending on the Decar Property, exploration programs,
resource definition drilling and engineering studies associated with the scoping study had focused on the Baptiste prospect.
Labrador Trough South
The Labrador Trough South property is located approximately 150 miles north of Sept-Iles, Québec and 30 miles southwest of the town of Fermont, Québec. Provincial highway 389 crosses the south and east sides of the property and provides year-round access. The property consists of a total of 636 non-contiguous claims covering roughly 130 square miles. Several areas containing iron mineralization have been further defined utilizing aerial geophysics, outcrop mapping and diamond drilling. These areas are known as: Lamêlée, Peppler Lake, Hobdad, Lac Jean and Faber. To date most of the exploration efforts focused on the first three areas. Cliffs acquired 100 percent ownership of the claims as part of the Consolidated Thompson acquisition in 2011. During 2014, we limited spending on the Labrador Trough South property. Given the uncertain timeline and risks associated with the development of necessary infrastructure to bring this project online, we do not expect to allocate any significant additional capital to the project. The Labrador Trough South property was included in the CCAA filing made in January 2015.
The Labrador Trough South property is situated in the Knob Lake Group of sedimentary rocks including Lake Superior-type banded iron formations. Here, the Labrador Trough is crossed by the Grenville Front. Trough rocks in the Grenville Province are highly metamorphosed, complexly folded and structurally dislocated. The high-grade metamorphism of the Grenville Province is responsible for recrystallization of both iron oxides and silica producing coarse-grained sugary quartz, magnetite, specular hematite schists and gneisses that are of improved quality for concentrating and processing. Potentially recoverable minerals in the project are predominantly magnetite and subordinate hematite.
We have a corporate policy prescribing internal control and procedures with respect to auditing and estimating of minerals. The procedures contained in the policy include the calculation of mineral estimates at each property by our engineers, geologists and accountants, as well as third-party consultants. Management compiles and reviews the calculations, and once finalized, such information is used to prepare the disclosures for our annual and quarterly reports. The disclosures are reviewed and approved by management, including our president and chief financial officer. Additionally, the long-range mine planning and mineral estimates are reviewed annually by our Audit Committee. Furthermore, all changes to mineral estimates, other than those due to production, are adequately documented and submitted to senior operations officers for review and approval. Finally, periodic reviews of long-range mine plans and mineral reserve estimates are conducted at mine staff meetings, senior management meetings and by independent experts.
Reserves are defined by SEC Industry Standard Guide 7 as that part of a mineral deposit that could be economically and legally extracted and produced at the time of the reserve determination. All reserves are classified as proven or probable and are supported by life-of-mine plans.
Reserve estimates are based on pricing that does not exceed the three-year trailing average of benchmark prices for iron ore and coal adjusted to our realized price. For the three-year period 2011 to 2013, the average international benchmark price of 62 percent Fe CFR China was $145 per dry metric ton. For the same period, the benchmark coal prices FOB U.S. East Coast were $219 per metric ton for low-volatile coal.
We evaluate and analyze mineral reserve estimates in accordance with our mineral policy and SEC requirements. The table below identifies the year in which the latest reserve estimate was completed.
Date of Latest Economic
U.S. Iron Ore
Asia Pacific Iron Ore
North American Coal
Iron Ore Reserves
Ore reserve estimates for our iron ore mines as of December 31, 2014 were estimated from fully designed open pits developed using three-dimensional modeling techniques. These fully designed pits incorporate design slopes, practical mining shapes and access ramps to assure the accuracy of our reserve estimates. In the first quarter of 2014, we made the decision to idle all production at our Wabush mine. Production at our Wabush mine was idled by the end of March 2014, and in November 2014, we determined to implement the permanent closure plan for the mine, which became effective in the fourth quarter of 2014. On November 19, 2014, we announced that we are pursuing exit options for our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations, which may result in the closure of the Bloom Lake mine. Additionally, as disclosed on January 2, 2015, active production at Bloom Lake mine has completely ceased and the mine has transitioned to "care-and-maintenance" mode. As a result, the reserves previously reported for Wabush and Bloom Lake mines have been removed from our reserve estimates. All of our remaining operations reserves have been adjusted net of 2014 production.
U.S. Iron Ore
All tonnages reported for our U.S. Iron Ore operating segment are in long tons of 2,240 pounds, have been rounded to the nearest 100,000 and are reported on a 100 percent basis.
U.S. Iron Ore Mineral Reserves
as of December 31, 2014
(In Millions of Long Tons)
Proven & Probable
Saleable Product 2,3
P&P Crude Ore
1 Tilden hematite reported grade is percent FeT; all other properties are percent magnetic iron
2 Saleable product is a standard pellet containing 60 to 66 percent Fe calculated from both proven and probable mineral reserves
3 Saleable product is reported on a dry basis; shipped products typically contain 1 to 4 percent moisture
4 Process recovery includes all factors for converting crude ore tonnage to saleable product
5 Cutoff grades are 15 percent magnetic iron for Hibbing and Empire, 17 percent for United Taconite, 19 percent for
Northshore and 20 percent for Tilden. Cutoff for Tilden hematite is 25 percent FeT.
As previously announced, we entered into an agreement with our partner at the Empire mine on February 24, 2014 in regard to an extension of the mine life until 2016. Reserve figures for the Empire mine have been updated to reflect the increased crude ore tonnage and pellet production we expect to realize based on the extended mine life.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore
All tonnages reported for our Asia Pacific Iron Ore operating segment are in metric tons of 2,205 pounds, have been rounded to the nearest 100,000 and are reported on a 100 percent basis.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore Mineral Reserves
as of December 31, 2014
(In Millions of Metric Tons)1
Proven & Probable
Previous Year Total
1 Tonnages reported are saleable product reported on a dry basis; shipped products contain approximately 3 percent moisture
2 Cutoff grade is 54 percent FeT
Coal reserves estimates for our North American underground mines as of December 31, 2014 were estimated using three-dimensional modeling techniques, coupled with scheduled mine plans. The Pinnacle operations and Oak Grove operations reserves have not changed net of 2014 mine production. Effective December 31, 2014, the sale of the CLCC assets was completed and, as a result, the reserves previously reported have been removed from our reserve estimates.
North American Coal
All tonnages reported for our North American Coal operating segment are in short tons of 2,000 pounds, have been rounded to the nearest 100,000 and are reported on a 100 percent basis.
Recoverable Coal Reserves
as of December 31, 2014
(In Millions of Short Tons)1
As Received Btu/lb
Pocahontas No 3
Pocahontas No 4
Blue Creek Seam
1 Recoverable coal is reported on a wet basis containing approximately 6 percent moisture
2 Assigned reserves represent coal that can be mined without a significant capital expenditure, whereas unassigned reserves will require significant capital expenditures before production could be realized
Alabama Dust Litigation. There are currently three cases in the Alabama state court system that comprise the Alabama Dust Litigation. Generally, these claims are brought by nearby homeowners who allege that dust emanating from the Concord Preparation Plant causes damage to their properties. All three of these cases are active and settlement discussions are proceeding. It is possible that these types of complaints may continue to be filed in the future, but the overall impact of these cases is not anticipated currently to have a material financial impact on our business.
Bloom Lake Investigation. CQIM, Bloom Lake General Partner Limited and Bloom Lake were investigated by Environment Canada in relation to alleged violations of Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act that prohibits the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish or in any place where the deleterious substance may enter any such water and Section 40(3) of the Fisheries Act in relation to an alleged failure to comply with a direction of an inspector. The investigation covered several alleged incidents that occurred between April 2011 and October 2012. The Bloom Lake investigation was settled on December 19, 2014 resolving all allegations and included a fine of C$1.5 million and a contribution to the Environmental Damages Fund of C$6.0 million. CQIM, Bloom Lake General Partner Limited and Bloom Lake entered into a Management Directive with Environment Canada which outlines compliance obligations to address these concerns going forward.
Essar Litigation. The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, Northshore Mining Company and Cliffs Mining Company (collectively, the "Cliffs Plaintiffs") filed a complaint against Essar in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, on January 12, 2015, asserting that Essar breached the Essar Sale Agreement by, among other things, failing to take delivery of and pay for its nominated ore in 2014, failing to make certain payments under a true up provision, and disclosing confidential information. The complaint also seeks a declaration that Essar is not entitled to receive certain credit payments under the terms of the Essar Sale Agreement. The Cliffs Plaintiffs seek damages in excess of $90 million. Essar filed an Answer and Counterclaim on February 11, 2015, seeking damages in excess of $160 million for various alleged breaches of the Essar Sale Agreement, including failure to deliver ore, overcharging for certain deliveries, failure to pay certain credit payments and disclosing confidential information.
Maritime Asbestos Litigation. The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company and/or The Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company have been named defendants in 489 actions brought from 1986 to date by former seamen claiming damages for various illnesses allegedly suffered as the result of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers while serving as crew members aboard the vessels previously owned or managed by our entities until the mid-1980s. All of these actions have been consolidated into multidistrict proceedings in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, along with approximately 30,000 other cases from various jurisdictions that were filed against other defendants. Through a series of court orders, the docket has been reduced to approximately 3,500 active cases. We are a named defendant in approximately 50 cases. These cases are in the discovery phase. The court has dismissed the remainder of the cases without prejudice. Those dismissed cases could be reinstated upon application by plaintiffs’ counsel. The claims against our entities are insured in amounts that vary by policy year; however, the manner in which coverage will be applied remains uncertain. Our entities continue to vigorously contest these claims and have made no settlements on them.
Pinnacle Mine Environmental Litigation. On June 22, 2010, the West Virginia DEP filed a lawsuit in the Wyoming County Circuit Court against the Pinnacle mine alleging past non-compliance with its NPDES discharge permit. The complaint seeks injunctive relief and penalties. An initial penalty proposal of $1.0 million was offered by the West Virginia DEP in March 2012; however, Pinnacle disagrees with the alleged violations and has met with the DEP to present facts supporting a review and reduction of the proposed penalty.
Pointe Noire Investigation. Wabush Mines was investigated by Environment Canada in relation to alleged violations of (i) Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, which prohibits the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish or in any place where the deleterious substance may enter any such water, and (ii) Section 5.1 of the Migratory Bird Convention Act, 1994. The Québec Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Wildlife and Parks also conducted an investigation into alleged violations of Section 8 of the Hazardous Material Regulation, which prohibits the discharge of a hazardous material to the environment. The investigations covered events surrounding and leading up to the alleged release of approximately 1,320 gallons of fuel oil into the Bay of Sept-Iles on September 1, 2013. We cooperated with the investigators and agency response officials. In April 2014, the Québec Ministry of Justice filed a penalty charge related to the incident. The Pointe Noire investigation was settled in December 2014. A fine of C$750,000 and C$61,000 in costs were agreed to be paid. We are anticipating a report by the Québec Ministry related to their assessment of the cleanup activities and further direction related to requirements for additional environmental monitoring, if any.
Putative Class Action Lawsuits. In May 2014, alleged purchasers of our common shares filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against us and certain current and former officers and directors of the Company. The action is captioned Department of the Treasury of the State of New Jersey and Its Division of Investment v. Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., et al., No. 1:14-CV-1031. The action asserts violations of the federal securities laws based on alleged false or misleading statements or omissions during the period of March 14, 2012 to March 26, 2013, regarding operations at our Bloom Lake mine in Québec, Canada, and the impact of those operations on our finances and outlook, including sustainability of the dividend, and that the alleged misstatements caused our common shares to trade at artificially inflated prices. The lawsuit seeks class certification and an award of monetary damages to the putative class in an unspecified amount, along with costs of suit and attorneys’ fees. On October 21, 2014, defendants filed a motion to dismiss this action. The lawsuit has been referred to our insurance carriers.
In June 2014, an alleged purchaser of the depositary shares issued by Cliffs in a public offering in February 2013 filed a putative class action, which is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and is captioned Rosenberg v. Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., et al., No. 1:14-cv-01531, The suit asserts claims against us, certain current and former officers and directors of the Company, and several underwriters of the offering, alleging disclosure violations in the registration statement regarding operations at our Bloom Lake mine and the impact of those operations on our finances and outlook. This action seeks class certification and monetary relief in an unspecified amount, along with costs of suit and attorneys’ fees. This lawsuit has been referred to our insurance carriers.
The Rio Tinto Mine Site. The Rio Tinto Mine Site is an historic underground copper mine located near Mountain City, Nevada, where tailings were placed in Mill Creek, a tributary to the Owyhee River. Site investigation and remediation work is being conducted in accordance with a Consent Order dated September 14, 2001 between the NDEP and the RTWG composed of the Company, Atlantic Richfield Company, Teck Cominco American Incorporated and E. I. duPont de Nemours and Company. The Consent Order provides for technical review by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the NDEP and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe of the Duck Valley Reservation (collectively, "Rio Tinto Trustees"). In recognition of the potential for an NRD claim, the parties actively pursued a global settlement that would include the EPA and encompass both the remedial action and the NRD issues.
The NDEP published a Record of Decision for the Rio Tinto Mine, which was signed on February 14, 2012 by the NDEP and the EPA. On September 27, 2012, the agencies subsequently issued a proposed Consent Decree, which was lodged with the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada and opened for 30-day public comment on October 4, 2012. The Consent Decree subsequently was finalized on May 20, 2013. Under the terms of the Consent Decree, the RTWG has agreed to pay over $29 million in cleanup costs and natural resource damages to the site and surrounding area. The Company's share of the total settlement cost, which includes remedial action, insurance and other oversight costs, is approximately $12 million.
Under the terms of the Consent Decree, the RTWG will be responsible for removing mine tailings from Mill Creek, improving the creek to support redband trout and improving water quality in Mill Creek and the East Fork Owyhee River. Previous cleanup projects included filling in old mine shafts, grading and covering leach pads and tailings, and building diversion ditches. NDEP will oversee the cleanup, with input from EPA and monitoring from the nearby Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley.
Shareholder Derivative Lawsuits. In June and July 2014, alleged shareholders of Cliffs filed three derivative actions in the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas asserting claims against certain current and former officers and directors of the Company. These actions, captioned Black v. Carrabba, et al., No. CV-14-827803, Asmussen v. Carrabba, et al., No. CV-14-829259, and Williams, et al. v. Carrabba, et al., No. CV-14-829499, allege that the individually named defendants violated their fiduciary duties to the Company by, among other things, disseminating false and misleading information regarding operations at our Bloom Lake mine in Québec, Canada, and the impact of those operations on our finances and outlook, including sustainability of the dividend, failing to maintain internal controls, and failing to appropriately oversee and manage the Company. The complaints assert additional claims for unjust enrichment, abuse of control, gross mismanagement, and waste of corporate assets. The complaints seek damages, restitution, and equitable relief against the individually named defendants and in favor of the Company, along with costs of suit and attorneys’ fees. These lawsuits have been referred to our insurance carriers. As these are derivative actions, we have been named only as a nominal defendant.
Southern Natural Gas Lawsuit: On July 23, 2014, Southern Natural Gas Company, L.L.C. filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama (Case No. 68-CV-2014-900533.00) against the Company and others. The suit seeks to prevent coal mining activity underneath a gas pipeline at our Oak Grove property and to require defendants to pay the costs associated with relocating that pipeline. The suit seeks declaratory judgment, permanent injunctive relief and nuisance damages. The Circuit Court denied our motion to dismiss the complaint and we subsequently filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Alabama Supreme Court requesting that it direct the Circuit Court to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We filed a motion to stay discovery pending the Alabama Supreme Court's decision on the mandamus petition. Unless and until that motion is granted, discovery is ongoing in the Circuit Court. We also filed a Joinder of Additional Parties, including Kinder Morgan, Inc., and a Counterclaim, asserting breach or repudiation of easement agreements, interference with business relations, and slander of title.
Taconite MACT Compliance Review. EPA Region 5 issued Notices of Violation during the first quarter of 2014 to Empire, Tilden and United Taconite related to alleged historical violations of the Taconite MACT rule and certain elements of the respective state-issued Title V operating permits. Initial meetings were held with the EPA in the second quarter of 2014. While the matter has been referred to the DOJ for enforcement, the overall impact is not anticipated currently to have a material impact on our business.
Worldlink Arbitration. In October 2011, our wholly owned subsidiary, CQIM, along with Bloom Lake General Partner Limited and The Bloom Lake Iron Ore Mine Limited Partnership, instituted an arbitration claim against the Bloom Lake mine’s former customer, Worldlink Resources Limited, for material and/or fundamental breaches of the parties’ 2007 offtake agreement for the purchase and sale of iron concentrate produced at the Bloom Lake mine. Our subsidiaries filed the arbitration claim with the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce pursuant to the dispute resolution provisions of the offtake agreement. Our subsidiaries terminated the offtake agreement with Worldlink in August 2011 due to Worldlink’s failure to fulfill its obligations under the agreement and Worldlink’s demand to renegotiate the price of the iron ore concentrate in spite of being party to a long-term offtake agreement. Our subsidiaries claimed damages for the breach of the offtake agreement in excess of $85 million and Worldlink counterclaimed for damages in excess of $100 million. In November 2014, the arbitrators decided in favor of Worldlink and awarded it damages in an amount of approximately $71 million as well as approximately $25 million in accrued interest from the date of termination of the offtake agreement in August 2011 and arbitration costs. This judgment has been included in the CCAA filing of the Bloom Lake Group and will be treated as an unsecured claim.
Mine Safety Disclosures
We are committed to protecting the occupational health and well-being of each of our employees. Safety is one of our core values, and we strive to ensure that safe production is the first priority for all employees. Our internal objective is to achieve zero injuries and incidents across the Company by focusing on proactively identifying needed prevention activities, establishing standards and evaluating performance to mitigate any potential loss to people, equipment, production and the environment. We have implemented intensive employee training that is geared toward maintaining a high level of awareness and knowledge of safety and health issues in the work environment through the development and coordination of requisite information, skills and attitudes. We believe that through these policies, we have developed an effective safety management system.
Under the Dodd-Frank Act, each operator of a coal or other mine is required to include certain mine safety results within its periodic reports filed with the SEC. As required by the reporting requirements included in §1503(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act and Item 104 of Regulation S-K, the required mine safety results regarding certain mining safety and health matters for each of our mine locations that are covered under the scope of the Dodd-Frank Act are included in Exhibit 95 of Item 15. Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Stock Exchange Information
Our common shares (ticker symbol CLF) are listed on the NYSE.
Common Share Price Performance and Dividends
The following table sets forth, for the periods indicated, the high and low sales prices per common share as reported on the NYSE and the dividends declared per common share:
At February 23, 2015, we had 1,312 shareholders of record.
On January 22, 2015, we amended the Amended and Restated Multicurrency Credit Agreement (Amendment No. 6) among Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. and various lenders dated August 11, 2011 (as further amended by Amendment No. 1 as of October 16, 2012, Amendment No. 2 as of February 8, 2013, Amendment No. 3 as of June 30, 2014, Amendment No. 4 as of September 9, 2014 and Amendment No. 5 as of October 24, 2014), or revolving credit agreement, to effect the following, among other items:
a reduction of the permitted amount of quarterly dividends on our common shares to not more than $0.01 per share in any fiscal quarter.
On January 26, 2015, we announced that our Board of Directors had decided to eliminate the quarterly dividend of $0.15 per share on our common shares. The decision is applicable to the first quarter of 2015 and all subsequent quarters. The elimination of the common share dividend provides us with additional free cash flow of approximately $92 million annually, which we intend to use for further debt reduction. We see accelerated debt reduction as a more effective means of protecting our shareholders than continuing to pay a common share dividend.
Shareholder Return Performance
The following graph shows changes over the past five-year period in the value of $100 invested in: (1) Cliffs' common shares; (2) S&P 500 Stock Index; (3) S&P 500 Steel Group Index; and (4) S&P Midcap 400 Index. The values of each investment are based on price change plus reinvestment of all dividends reported to shareholders.
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
S&P 500 Index - Total Returns
S&P 500 Steel Index
S&P Midcap 400 Index
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
The following table presents information with respect to repurchases by the Company of our common shares during the periods indicated.
ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Total Number of Shares
(or Units) Purchased (1)
Average Price Paid per Share
Total Number of Shares (or Units) Purchased as Part of Publicly Announced Plans or Programs
Maximum Number (or Approximate Dollar Value) of Shares (or Units) that May Yet be Purchased Under the Plans or Programs (2)
October 1 - 31, 2014
November 1 - 30, 2014
December 1 - 31, 2014
These shares were delivered to us by employees to satisfy tax withholding obligations due upon the vesting or payment of stock awards or scheduled distributions from our VNQDC Plan.
On August 25, 2014, the Board of Directors authorized a new share repurchase plan pursuant to which we may buy back our outstanding common shares in the open market or in private negotiated transactions up to a maximum of $200 million. No shares have been purchased through December 31, 2014. The authorization is active until December 31, 2015.
Selected Financial Data
Summary of Financial and Other Statistical Data - Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. and Subsidiaries
Financial data (in millions, except per share amounts) *
Revenue from product sales and services
Cost of goods sold and operating expenses
Other operating expense
Operating income (loss)
Income (loss) from continuing operations
Income and gain on sale from discontinued operations, net of tax
Net income (loss)
Loss (income) attributable to noncontrolling interest
Net income (loss) attributable to Cliffs shareholders
Preferred stock dividends
Income (loss) attributable to Cliffs common shareholders
Earnings (loss) per common share attributable to
Cliffs shareholders - basic
Earnings (loss) per common share attributable to
Cliffs shareholders - basic
Earnings (loss) per common share attributable to
Cliffs shareholders - diluted
Earnings (loss) per common share attributable to
Cliffs shareholders - diluted
Long-term debt obligations (including capital leases)
Net cash from operating activities
Distributions to preferred shareholders cash dividends (e)
- Per depositary share
Distributions to common shareholders cash dividends (a)
- Per share
Repurchases of common shares
Common shares outstanding - basic (millions)
- Average for year
- At year-end
Iron ore and coal production and sales statistics
(tons in millions - U.S. Iron Ore and North American Coal; metric tons in millions - Asia Pacific Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore)
Production tonnage - U.S. Iron Ore
- Asia Pacific Iron Ore
- North American Coal
- Eastern Canadian Iron Ore
Production tonnage - (Cliffs' share)
- U.S. Iron Ore
- Eastern Canadian Iron Ore
Sales tonnage - U.S. Iron Ore
- Asia Pacific Iron Ore
- North American Coal
- Eastern Canadian Iron Ore
* On July 10, 2012, we entered into a definitive share and asset sale agreement to sell our 45 percent economic interest in the Sonoma joint venture coal mine located in Queensland, Australia. Additionally, on September 27, 2011, we announced our plans to cease and dispose of the operations at the renewaFUEL biomass production facility in Michigan. On January 4, 2012, we entered into an agreement to sell the renewaFUEL assets to RNFL Acquisition LLC. The results of operations of the Sonoma joint venture and renewaFUEL operations are reflected as discontinued operations in the accompanying consolidated financial statements for all periods presented.
(a) On May 11, 2010, our Board of Directors increased our quarterly common share dividend from $0.0875 to $0.14 per share. The increased cash dividend was paid on June 1, 2010, September 1, 2010 and December 1, 2010 to shareholders on record as of May 14, 2010, August 13, 2010 and November 19, 2010, respectively. In addition, the increased cash dividend was paid on March 1, 2011 and June 1, 2011 to shareholders on record as of February 15, 2011 and April 29, 2011, respectively. On July 12, 2011, our Board of Directors increased the quarterly common share dividend by 100 percent to $0.28 per share. The increased cash dividend was paid on September 1, 2011, December 1, 2011 and March 1, 2012 to our shareholders on record as of the close of business on August 15, 2011, November 18, 2011 and February 15, 2012, respectively. On March 13, 2012, our Board of Directors increased the quarterly common share dividend by 123 percent to $0.625 per share. The increased cash dividend was paid on June 1, 2012, August 31, 2012 and December 3, 2012 to our shareholders on record as of April 27, 2012, August 15, 2012 and November 23, 2012, respectively. On February 11, 2013, our Board of Directors approved a reduction to our quarterly cash dividend rate by 76 percent to $0.15 per share. The decreased dividend of $0.15 per share was paid on March 1, 2013, June 3, 2013, September 3, 2013 and December 2, 2013 to our common shareholders of record as of the close of business on February 22, 2013, May 17, 2013, August 15, 2013 and November 22, 2013, respectively. Additionally, in 2014, the dividend of $0.15 per share was paid on March 3, 2014, June 3, 2014, September 2, 2014 and December 1, 2014 to our common shareholders of record as of the close of business on February 21, 2014, May 23, 2014, August 15, 2014 and November 15, 2014, respectively.
(b) On January 27, 2010, we acquired all of the remaining outstanding shares of Freewest, including its interest in the Ring of Fire properties in Northern Ontario Canada. On February 1, 2010, we acquired entities from our former partners that held their respective interests in Wabush, thereby increasing our ownership interest from 26.8 percent to 100 percent. On July 30, 2010, we acquired all of the coal operations of privately owned INR, and since that date, the operations acquired from INR have been conducted through our wholly owned subsidiary known as CLCC. Results for 2010 include Freewest's, Wabush's and CLCC's results since the respective acquisition dates. As a result of acquiring the remaining ownership interest in Freewest and Wabush, our 2010 results were impacted by realized gains of $38.6 million primarily related to the increase in fair value of our previous ownership interest in each investment held prior to the business acquisition.
In December 2010, we completed a legal entity restructuring that resulted in a change to deferred tax liabilities of $78.0 million on certain foreign investments to a deferred tax asset of $9.4 million for tax basis in excess of book basis on forei