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UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
FORM 10-K
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023
OR
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
clf2019def14aprimarylogoa01.jpg
CLEVELAND-CLIFFS INC.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Ohio34-1464672
(State or Other Jurisdiction of
Incorporation or Organization)
(I.R.S. Employer
Identification No.)
200 Public Square,Cleveland,Ohio44114-2315
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)(Zip Code)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (216) 694-5700
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each classTrading Symbol(s)Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Shares, par value $0.125 per shareCLFNew York Stock Exchange
Securities registered pursuant to section 12(g) of the Act: NONE
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.       Yes             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  
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              No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted 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 such files).      Yes              No  
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and "emerging growth company" in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filerAccelerated filer
Non-accelerated filerSmaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.    
If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements.
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant's executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).      Yes             No  


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As of June 30, 2023, 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 $16.76 per share as reported on the New York Stock Exchange — Composite Index, was $8,390,625,983 (excluded from this figure are the voting shares 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 498,289,476 as of February 8, 2024.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s proxy statement for its 2024 annual meeting of shareholders are incorporated by reference into Part III.


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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page Number
DEFINITIONS
PART I
ITEM 1.BUSINESS
Information About Our Executive Officers
ITEM 1A.RISK FACTORS
ITEM 1B.UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 1C.CYBERSECURITY
ITEM 2.PROPERTIES
ITEM 3.LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
ITEM 4.MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
PART II
ITEM 5.MARKET FOR REGISTRANT'S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
ITEM 6.[Reserved]
ITEM 7.MANAGEMENT'S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
ITEM 7A.QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK
ITEM 8.FINANCIAL STATEMENTS AND SUPPLEMENTARY DATA
ITEM 9.CHANGES IN AND DISAGREEMENTS WITH ACCOUNTANTS ON ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE
ITEM 9A.CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES
ITEM 9B.OTHER INFORMATION
ITEM 9C.
DISCLOSURE REGARDING FOREIGN JURISDICTIONS THAT PREVENT INSPECTIONS
PART III
ITEM 10.DIRECTORS, EXECUTIVE OFFICERS AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
ITEM 11.EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION
ITEM 12.SECURITY OWNERSHIP OF CERTAIN BENEFICIAL OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT AND RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS
ITEM 13.CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATED TRANSACTIONS, AND DIRECTOR INDEPENDENCE
ITEM 14.PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTANT FEES AND SERVICES
PART IV
ITEM 15.EXHIBITS AND FINANCIAL STATEMENT SCHEDULES
ITEM 16.FORM 10-K SUMMARY
SIGNATURES


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DEFINITIONS
The following abbreviations or acronyms are used in the text. References in this report to the “Company,” “we,” “us,” “our,” "Cleveland-Cliffs" and “Cliffs” are to Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. and subsidiaries, collectively. References to “$” is to United States currency.
Abbreviation or acronymTerm
4.625% 2029 Senior Notes4.625% Senior Guaranteed Notes due 2029 issued by Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. on February 17, 2021 in an aggregate principal amount of $500 million
4.875% 2031 Senior Notes4.875% Senior Guaranteed Notes due 2031 issued by Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. on February 17, 2021 in an aggregate principal amount of $500 million
2012 Amended Equity PlanCliffs Natural Resources Inc. 2012 Incentive Equity Plan, as amended or amended and restated from time to time
2021 Equity PlanCleveland-Cliffs Inc. 2021 Equity and Incentive Compensation Plan
A&R 2015 Equity PlanCliffs Natural Resources Inc. Amended and Restated 2015 Equity and Incentive Compensation Plan
ABL FacilityAsset-Based Revolving Credit Agreement, dated as of March 13, 2020, among Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., the lenders party thereto from time to time and Bank of America, N.A., as administrative agent, as amended as of March 27, 2020, December 9, 2020, December 17, 2021, and June 9, 2023, and as may be further amended from time to time
Adjusted EBITDAEBITDA, excluding certain items such as EBITDA of noncontrolling interests, extinguishment of debt, acquisition-related expenses and adjustments, goodwill impairment, asset impairment and other, net
AGAutogenous grinding
AHSSAdvanced high-strength steel
AK SteelAK Steel Holding Corporation (n/k/a Cleveland-Cliffs Steel Holding Corporation) and its consolidated subsidiaries, including AK Steel Corporation (n/k/a Cleveland-Cliffs Steel Corporation), its direct, wholly owned subsidiary, collectively, unless stated otherwise or the context indicates otherwise
AM USA TransactionThe acquisition of ArcelorMittal USA, consummated on December 9, 2020
AOCIAccumulated other comprehensive income (loss)
ArcelorMittalArcelorMittal S.A., a company organized under the laws of Luxembourg and the former ultimate parent company of ArcelorMittal USA
ArcelorMittal USASubstantially all of the operations of the former ArcelorMittal USA LLC, its subsidiaries and certain affiliates, and Kote and Tek, collectively
ASCAccounting Standards Codification
ASUAccounting Standards Update
BoardThe Board of Directors of Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.
BOFBasic oxygen furnace
CERCLAComprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980
CHIPS ActCreating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors and Science Act of 2022
Clean Water ActFederal Water Pollution Control Act
CNCanadian National Railway Company
Compensation CommitteeCompensation and Organization Committee of the Board
CO2e
Carbon dioxide equivalent
COVID-19A novel strain of coronavirus that the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in March 2020
Directors’ PlanCleveland-Cliffs Inc. 2021 Nonemployee Directors’ Compensation Plan
Dodd-Frank ActDodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
DOEU.S. Department of Energy
DR-gradeDirect reduction-grade
EAFElectric arc furnace
EBITDAEarnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization
EmpireIron ore mining property owned by Empire Iron Mining Partnership, an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Cliffs
EPAU.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPSEarnings per share
ERISAEmployee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended
EVElectric vehicle
Exchange ActSecurities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended
FASBFinancial Accounting Standards Board
FeIron
1 | CLF 2023 FORM 10-K

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Abbreviation or acronymTerm
FeTTotal iron
FIPFederal implementation plan
Fourth ABL AmendmentFourth Amendment to Asset-Based Revolving Credit Agreement, dated as of June 9, 2023, among Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., the lenders party thereto from time to time and Bank of America, N.A., as administrative agent
FPTFerrous Processing and Trading Company, including certain related entities
FPT AcquisitionThe purchase of FPT, subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the FPT Acquisition Agreement
FPT Acquisition AgreementSecurities Purchase Agreement, dated as of October 8, 2021, by and between Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. and Anthony Soave Revocable Trust u/a/d January 14, 1987, as amended and restated
GAAPAccounting principles generally accepted in the United States
GHGGreenhouse gas
GOESGrain oriented electrical steel
HAPHazardous air pollutant
HBIHot briquetted iron
HibbingIron ore mining property owned by Hibbing Taconite Company, an unincorporated joint venture between subsidiaries of Cliffs and U.S. Steel
HRCHot-rolled coil steel
HVAC Heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment
IAMInternational Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Inflation Reduction ActInflation Reduction Act of 2022
Infrastructure and Jobs ActInfrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021
IRCU.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended
ISOInternational Organization for Standardization
ITInformation technology
JSW SteelJSW Steel (USA) Inc. and JSW Steel USA Ohio, Inc., collectively
Kote and TekCleveland-Cliffs Kote L.P. and Cleveland-Cliffs Tek L.P., collectively
LIBORLondon Interbank Offered Rate
LIFOLast-in, first-out
LoMLife-of-mine
Long ton (lt)2,240 pounds
Metric ton (mt)2,205 pounds
MinorcaIron ore mining property owned by Cleveland-Cliffs Minorca Mine Inc., an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Cliffs acquired in connection with the AM USA Transaction
MMBtuMillion British Thermal Units
MPCAMinnesota Pollution Control Agency
MSHAMine Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor
NAVNet asset value
Net ton (nt)2,000 pounds
NOLNet operating loss
NOES
Non-oriented electrical steel
NorthshoreIron ore mining property owned by Northshore Mining Company, a direct, wholly owned subsidiary of Cliffs
NPDESNational Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, authorized by the Clean Water Act
OPEBOther postretirement benefits
OSHAOccupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor
Platts 62% pricePlatts IODEX 62% Fe Fines CFR North China
QA/QCQuality assurance/quality control
QPQualified person, within the meaning set forth in Item 1300 of Regulation S-K
RI/FSRemedial Investigation/Feasibility Study
S&PStandard & Poor's
SECU.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Section 232Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (as amended by the Trade Act of 1974)
Securities ActSecurities Act of 1933, as amended
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Abbreviation or acronymTerm
SLRSLR Consulting US LLC (f/k/a SLR International Corporation)
SOFRSecured Overnight Financing Rate
STRIPSSeparate Trading of Registered Interest and Principal of Securities
SunCoke MiddletownMiddletown Coke Company, LLC, a subsidiary of SunCoke Energy, Inc.
TildenIron ore mining property owned by Tilden Mining Company L.C., an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Cliffs
TMDLTotal maximum daily load
Tooling and StampingCleveland-Cliffs Tooling and Stamping Holdings LLC, an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Cliffs, together with its subsidiaries
Topic 805ASC Topic 805, Business Combinations
Topic 815ASC Topic 815, Derivatives and Hedging
TSRTotal shareholder return
Tubular ComponentsCleveland-Cliffs Tubular Components LLC, an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Cliffs
U.S.United States of America
U.S. SteelUnited States Steel Corporation and its subsidiaries, collectively, unless stated otherwise or the context indicates otherwise
UAWUnited Auto Workers
United TaconiteIron ore mining property owned by United Taconite LLC, an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Cliffs
USMCAUnited States-Mexico-Canada Agreement
USWUnited Steelworkers
VEBAVoluntary employee benefit association trusts
VIEVariable interest entity
WLTWet long ton
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PART I
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
INTRODUCTION
We are the largest flat-rolled steel producer in North America. Founded in 1847 as a mine operator, we are also the largest manufacturer of iron ore pellets in North America. We are vertically integrated from mined raw materials, direct reduced iron, and ferrous scrap to primary steelmaking and downstream finishing, stamping, tooling and tubing. We are the largest supplier of steel to the automotive industry in North America and serve a diverse range of other markets due to our comprehensive offering of flat-rolled steel products. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, we employ approximately 28,000 people across our operations in the United States and Canada.
COMPETITIVE STRENGTHS
As the leading flat-rolled steel producer in North America, we benefit from having the size and scale necessary in a competitive, capital intensive business. Our sizeable operating footprint provides us with the operational leverage and flexibility to achieve competitive margins throughout the business cycle. We also have a unique vertically integrated profile from mined raw materials, direct reduced iron, and ferrous scrap to primary steelmaking and downstream finishing, stamping, tooling and tubing. This positioning gives us more predictable costs throughout our supply chain and more control over both our manufacturing inputs and our end-product destination.
Our primary competitive strength lies within our automotive steel business. We are a leading supplier of automotive-grade steel in the U.S. Compared to other steel end markets, automotive steel is generally higher quality, more operationally and technologically intensive to produce, and requires significantly more devotion to customer service than other steel end markets. This dedication to service and the infrastructure in place to meet our automotive customers’ demanding needs took decades to develop. We have continued to invest capital and resources to meet the requirements needed to serve the automotive industry and intend to maintain our position as an industry leader going forward.
Due to its demanding nature, the automotive steel business typically generates higher through-the-cycle margins, making it a desirable end market. Demand for automotive-grade steel is expected to remain strong in the coming years as a result of low unemployment, pent-up automotive demand arising out of supply chain issues and the replacement of older vehicles.
Our footprint provides us with a competitive advantage in supplying automotive and other highly demanding end markets, as we are able to produce a wide range of high-quality products. Our integrated facilities utilize domestic internally sourced iron ore as the primary feedstock, which allows us to produce a high-quality product with low residual content. We also possess the breadth and depth related to customer service, technical support, and research and development, which are necessary to supply the demanding needs of the automotive industry.
Since the acquisition of our steelmaking assets, we have dedicated significant resources to maintain and upgrade our facilities and equipment. The quality of our assets gives us a unique advantage in product offerings and operational efficiencies. After elevated spend in 2022 to perform overdue maintenance work at the facilities acquired as part of the 2020 acquisitions, we resumed normalized levels of maintenance capital and operating expense in 2023. The necessary resources that we have invested in our footprint are expected to keep our assets at an automotive-grade level of quality and reliability for years to come.
Our industry leading portfolio of fixed price contracts provides us a competitive advantage, as the steel industry is often viewed as volatile and subject to the market price of steel. Our fixed price contracts mitigate pricing volatility and support us in achieving healthy margins through the cycle.
Our ability to source our primary feedstock domestically and internally is a competitive strength. This model reduces our exposure to volatile pricing and unreliable global sourcing. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, along with other global tensions, has displayed the importance of our U.S.-centric footprint, as our competitors who primarily operate EAF facilities rely on imported pig iron to produce flat-rolled steel, the supply of which has been disrupted. The best example is our legacy business of producing iron ore pellets. By controlling our iron ore pellet supply, our primary steelmaking raw material feedstock can be secured at a stable and predictable cost and not be subject to as many factors outside of our control.
We believe we offer the most comprehensive flat-rolled steel product selection in the industry, along with several complementary products and services. A sampling of our offering includes AHSS, hot-dipped galvanized, aluminized, galvalume, electrogalvanized, galvanneal, HRC, cold-rolled coil, plate, tinplate, GOES, NOES, stainless steels, tool and die, stamped components, rail, slab and cast ingot. Across the quality spectrum and the supply chain, our customers can frequently find the solutions they need from our product selection.
We are currently a leading producer of electrical steels referred to as GOES and NOES in the U.S. In November 2021, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act was passed in the U.S., which provides funding to be used for the modernization of the electrical grid and the infrastructure needed to allow for increased EV adoption, both of which require electrical steels. Our electrical steel business is expected to continue achieving strong profitability in the coming years. During the second half of 2023, we commissioned our NOES expansion at our Zanesville facility, which increased our annual capacity by approximately 70,000 net tons.
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We are the first and the only producer of HBI in the Great Lakes region. Construction of our Toledo direct reduction plant was completed in the fourth quarter of 2020 and reached full run-rate nameplate annual capacity of 1.9 million metric tons during the middle of 2021. From this modern plant, we produce a high-quality, low-cost and low-carbon intensive HBI product that can be used in our blast furnaces as a productivity enhancer, or in our BOFs and EAFs as a premium scrap alternative. We use HBI to stretch our hot metal production, lowering carbon intensity and reliance on coke. With increasing tightness in the scrap and metallics markets combined with our own internal needs, we expect our Toledo direct reduction plant to support healthy margins for us going forward.
STRATEGY
MAXIMIZE OUR COMMERCIAL STRENGTHS
We offer a full suite of flat steel products encompassing effectively all of our customers' needs. We are a leading supplier to the automotive sector, where our portfolio of high-end products delivers a broad range of differentiated solutions for this highly sought after customer base.
As a result of our exposure to these high-end markets, we have the highest fixed price contractual volumes in our industry. Approximately 40-45% of our volumes are sold under these contracts. These contracts reduce volatility and allow for more predictable through-the-cycle margins. In addition to our fixed price contracts, we also sell significant volumes under index-linked contracts, which reduces our reliance on spot sales and allows us to improve our efficiency with increased volumes.
Our unique capabilities, driven by our portfolio of assets and technical expertise, give us an advantage in our flat-rolled product offering. We offer products that have superior formability, surface quality, strength and corrosion resistance for the automotive industry. In addition, our state-of-the-art Research and Innovation Center in Middletown, Ohio gives us the ability to collaborate with our customers and create new products and develop new and efficient steel manufacturing processes. During 2022, we introduced our MOTOR-MAX™ product line of NOES for high frequency motors and generators. During 2023, we introduced our C-STAR™ protection design, which was developed for the purpose of providing EV battery protection for improved safety purposes, but can be used in any type of light vehicle. These unique product offerings and customer service capabilities enable us to remain a leading steel supplier to the automotive industry.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR U.S.-CENTRIC, INTERNALLY SOURCED SUPPLY CHAIN
The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has reinforced the unique advantage of our vertically integrated business model. Two-thirds of U.S. imports of pig iron, a critical raw material for flat-rolled EAFs, had historically been sourced from Russia and Ukraine. This supply remains largely disrupted, driving volatility in input costs and reducing availability for our competitors’ ferrous inputs. We, on the other hand, produce our pig iron and liquid steel entirely in the U.S., supported by internally sourced iron ore and HBI and supplemented with internally sourced scrap. In addition, our internally produced pig iron is more environmentally friendly than imported pig iron, which is often made from sintered iron ore fines and with higher coke rates, for example. While competitors are forced to rely on suppliers who are subject to unpredictable disruptions in their ability to supply materials, we are able to take advantage of our vertically integrated footprint.
We began construction of our Toledo direct reduction plant in 2017, in part because of the uncertainty of the industry sourcing metallics from Russia and Ukraine. Russia had previously invaded the Crimea peninsula in 2014, and we saw a need for more on-shore metallics capacity in the U.S. HBI, which is a lower-carbon alternative to imported pig iron, continues to be a critical component of our decarbonization strategy.
OPTIMIZE OUR FULLY-INTEGRATED STEELMAKING FOOTPRINT
We are a fully-integrated steel enterprise with the size and scale to achieve margins above industry averages for flat-rolled steel. Our focus remains on realizing our inherent cost advantage in flat-rolled steel while also lowering carbon emissions. The combination of our ferrous raw materials, including iron ore, scrap and HBI, allows us to do so relative to peers who must rely on more unpredictable and unreliable raw material sourcing strategies.
We have ample access to scrap along with internally sourced iron ore pellets and HBI. Our ability to optimize use of these raw materials in our blast furnaces and BOFs ultimately boosts liquid steel output, reduces coke needs and lowers carbon emissions from our operations. As a result of successful operational improvements, we announced the indefinite idle of the Indiana Harbor #4 blast furnace in the first quarter of 2022. The indefinite idle reduced our operational blast furnaces from eight to seven. Our strategic use of HBI in our blast furnaces and maximizing scrap usage in our BOFs has allowed us to achieve the same steel production with one less blast furnace in our footprint.
During the second quarter of 2023, it was announced that we entered into long-term state mineral leases for more than 2,600 acres of iron ore at the Nashwauk mine site in Itasca County, Minnesota. The award of these leases is expected to resolve years of uncertainty regarding Hibbing Taconite’s mine life. This ore body is intended to serve as an extension of Hibbing Taconite, as the state’s mineral leases, combined with our own private mineral holdings at Nashwauk, are expected to provide more than two decades of additional ore reserves.
The necessary resources that we have invested in our footprint are expected to keep our assets at an automotive-grade level of quality and reliability for years to come, positioning us to benefit from operating efficiencies and improved capabilities in the coming years.
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ADVANCE OUR PARTICIPATION IN THE GREEN ECONOMY
We are seeking to expand our customer base with the desirable EV market. At this time, we believe the North American automotive industry is at a structural inflection point, with the adoption of electrical motors in passenger vehicles. As this market grows, it will require more advanced steel applications to meet the needs of EV producers and consumers. These features include the already existing sophisticated steel supply for internal combustion engine vehicle parts, along with the added need for steel-based battery enclosures and reinforcement in EVs. With our unique technical capabilities and leadership in the automotive industry, we believe we are positioned better than any other North American steelmaker to supply the steel and parts necessary to fill these needs.
We also have the right products to meet the growing demand for renewable energy as well as for the modernization of the U.S. electrical grid. We offer plate products that can be used in windmills, which we estimate contain 130 tons of steel per megawatt of electricity. In addition, panels for solar power are heavy consumers of galvanized steel, where we are a leading producer. We estimate solar panels consume 40 tons of steel per megawatt of electricity.
We are currently a leading producer of electrical steel in the U.S., which can facilitate the modernization of the U.S. electrical grid. Along with charging networks, electrical steels are also needed in the motors of EVs.
ENHANCE OUR ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
Our commitment to operating our business in a more environmentally responsible manner remains constant. One of the most important issues impacting our industry, our stakeholders and our planet is climate change. In early 2021, we announced our commitment to reduce GHG emissions 25% from 2017 levels by 2030. This goal represents combined Scope 1 (direct emissions) and Scope 2 (indirect emissions from purchased electricity or other forms of energy) GHG emission reductions across all of our operations. Our 2022 absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions were below our reduction goal well ahead of our 2030 target year. Since 2017, we have reduced our absolute emissions by 32% from 44 million metric tons to 30 million metric tons of CO2e in 2022.
In May 2023, we completed a successful blast furnace hydrogen injection trial at Middletown Works. During the trial, hydrogen gas was injected in all 20 tuyeres at the Middletown #3 blast furnace, facilitating the production of clean pig iron. In this trial, hydrogen served as a partial substitute for the fossil fuels necessary for iron reduction, ultimately replacing the release of CO2 with the release of H2O (water vapor) with no impact to product quality or operating efficiency.
In October 2023, the DOE announced the intention to award funding under the Infrastructure and Jobs Act for seven regional hydrogen hubs, including the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen. This hub covering Illinois, Indiana and Michigan was selected for $1 billion in funding and is near our two largest steel plants, Indiana Harbor and Burns Harbor. We recently commissioned a pipeline and successfully completed a hydrogen injection trial at our Indiana Harbor blast furnace #7. This follows an initial similar trial of hydrogen at our blast furnace in Middletown earlier in 2023. The use of hydrogen within our blast furnace is expected to partially reduce coke rate and displace the release of CO2 with H2O, reducing our overall emissions.
Our future GHG emissions reductions are expected to be driven by the use of direct reduced iron in blast furnaces, the stretching of hot metal with additional scrap, driving more productivity out of fewer blast furnaces, implementing hydrogen use where possible, adopting carbon capture and utilization, procuring more clean energy and operating with higher energy efficiency.
IMPROVE FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY
Given the cyclicality of our business, it is important to us to be in the financial position to easily withstand economic cycles and be opportunistic when attractive strategic opportunities arise. Since the acquisition of our steelmaking assets in 2020, we have demonstrated our ability to generate healthy free cash flow and use it to reduce substantial amounts of debt, return capital to shareholders through our share repurchase program, and make investments to both improve and grow our business. During 2023, we reduced the principal amount of outstanding long-term debt by $1.1 billion while returning $152 million in capital to shareholders via share repurchases. We have also historically shown our ability to take advantage of volatility in the debt markets and repurchase notes at a discount.
We expect to have ample opportunities to reduce our debt and return capital to shareholders with our own free cash flow generation in the coming years. It is also important for us to maintain sufficient liquidity. Our liquidity as of December 31, 2023 of $4.5 billion is the highest in our Company’s history.
BUSINESS OPERATIONS
We have a vertically integrated portfolio, which begins at the mining stage and goes all the way through the manufacturing of steel products, including stamping, tooling and tubing. We have the unique advantage as a steel producer of being fully or partially self-sufficient with our production of raw materials for steel manufacturing, which includes iron ore pellets, HBI, scrap and coking coal. We are organized into four operating segments based on the differentiated products – Steelmaking, Tubular, Tooling and Stamping and European Operations. We primarily operate through one reportable segment – the Steelmaking segment.
Our primary steel producing and finishing facilities are located across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. We operate seven blast furnaces and five EAFs with the configured capability of producing approximately 20.5 million tons of raw steel annually. Raw steel is generally cast into slabs and finished based on customer specifications. Finishing is completed on site at our integrated operations or at one of our standalone finishing facilities.
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Ferrous raw materials for the production of steel are internally sourced from our iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota, our direct reduction plant in Ohio and our scrap facilities in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Florida and Ontario. We also operate a coal mining complex in West Virginia and produce coke from our facilities in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Our Other Businesses primarily includes the Tubular Components and Tooling and Stamping operating segments that provide customer solutions with carbon and stainless steel tubing products, advanced-engineered solutions, tool design and build, hot- and cold-stamped steel components and complex assemblies.
Refer to Part I - Item 2. Properties for additional information.
PRODUCTS AND MARKETS
2023 Product Mix (By Revenue)Primary Products
1899
HOT-ROLLED
STAINLESS AND ELECTRICAL
OTHER
COLD-ROLLED
Scrap
COATED
GOES
Iron Ore
Aluminized
NOES
HBI
Electrogalvanized
Auto Chrome
Coal
Galvalume
PLATE
Coke
Galvanneal
SLAB AND OTHER STEEL PRODUCTS
NON-STEELMAKING
Hot-dipped Galvanized
Stamped Components
Tinplate
Slab
Tool and Die
Rail
Tubing
Blooms
Cast Ingots
As a fully integrated steel enterprise, we have a comprehensive portfolio of steel solutions. We primarily sell our products to customers in four broad market categories. The following table presents the percentage of our revenues to each of these markets during the year:
MarketPrimary Products Sold to End Market20232022
Direct automotiveCold-rolled, galvanized, aluminized, NOES and stainless36 %31 %
Infrastructure and manufacturingHot-rolled, cold-rolled, galvanized, plate, GOES, stainless, tinplate and rail26 %26 %
Distributors and convertersAll grades of steel25 %28 %
Steel producersSlab, scrap, iron ore, HBI, coal and coke13 %15 %
The change in percentages of revenues to each market in 2023, compared to 2022, was driven primarily by the increase in volumes and in selling prices for our fixed price contracts to the direct automotive market, lower pricing on index-linked sales, and lower pricing on spot sales. Additionally, our sales to the direct automotive market increased as prior supply chain issues eased and light vehicle production in North America reached the highest level since 2019.
We sell our products principally to customers in North America. Approximately 40-45% of our flat-rolled steel shipments are sold under fixed base price contracts. These contracts are typically one year in duration and expire at various times throughout the year. Some of these contracts have a surcharge mechanism that passes through certain changes in input costs. A certain portion of our flat-rolled steel shipments are sold based on the spot market at prevailing market prices or under contracts that involve variable pricing that is tied to an independently published steel index.
AUTOMOTIVE MARKET
We specialize in manufacturing difficult-to-produce and high-quality steel products with demanding delivery performance and first-class customer technical support. Through our collaborative relationships with automotive producers, we develop breakthrough steel solutions that help our customers meet their product requirements. The quality of our steel is appealing to end users because of its strength, surface quality and formability. EAF producers’ equipment is designed to utilize scrap as their main feedstock, which often contains high residual or impure content, limiting their product capabilities. The exacting requirements for servicing the automotive market generally allows for higher selling prices for products sold to that market than for the commodity types of steel sold to other markets.
The largest end user for our steel products is the automotive industry in North America, which makes light vehicle production a key driver of demand. During 2023, North American light vehicle production was 15.6 million units, up from 14.3 million units in 2022. North American light vehicle production in 2024 is estimated to exceed 2023 units, indicating continued strength from the automotive industry. The long-term outlook for the automotive industry remains positive as pent-up demand remains strong, inventory levels are below historical averages and the average age of vehicles on the road in the U.S. reached an all-time high during 2023, surpassing the previous record set in 2022.
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Furthermore, during 2023, consumer demand for sport utility vehicles, trucks and crossovers continued to increase while demand for smaller sedans and compact cars declined. We benefit from intentionally targeting larger vehicle platforms to take advantage of consumer preferences, and we have focused on and have been successful in supplying sizeable portions of numerous large vehicle platforms. As a result, a significant portion of the automotive steel that we sell is used to produce these popular larger vehicles. In addition to benefiting from our exposure to consumers’ strong demand for larger vehicles, these vehicles also typically contain a higher volume of steel than smaller sedans and compact cars, providing us the opportunity to sell a higher volume of our steel products.
Automotive manufacturers continue to explore opportunities to develop vehicles that are lighter in weight. We collaborate with our automotive customers and their suppliers to develop innovative solutions using our developments in light weighting, efficiency, and material strength and formability across our extensive product portfolio, in combination with our automotive stamping and tube-making capabilities. During 2023, we introduced an all steel battery box design utilizing various grades of AHSS for improved use for lower GHG emissions, to maintain light-weighting targets, and to gain cost benefits when compared to using alternative materials. We believe we offer steel products that are stronger, less expensive, have competitive weight savings, are easier to repair and are more environmentally friendly than alternative materials.
Automotive manufacturers have also been increasing their development of EVs in order to meet the growing customer adoption of EVs. Many motors used in EVs being sold in the U.S. today are imported from foreign suppliers, but more local sourcing and manufacturing of motors is expected to occur in the future. As a leading producer in North America of high-efficiency NOES, which is a critical component of EV motors, we are positioned to potentially benefit from the growth of EVs going forward. During 2023, we introduced our C-STAR™ protection design, which was developed for the purpose of providing EV battery protection for improved safety purposes, but can be used in any type of light vehicle. In 2022, we introduced our MOTOR-MAX™ product line of NOES for high frequency motors and generators. We believe our strong foundation in electrical steels and long-standing relationships with automotive manufacturers and their suppliers will provide us with an advantage in this market as it continues to grow and mature. Likewise, the growing customer adoption of EVs may also increase demand for improvements in the electric grid to support higher demand for more extensive battery charging, which our GOES could support.
The majority of our sales to the automotive market are under annual fixed price contracts. In 2024, we expect contract prices to be roughly similar when compared to the prior year.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND MANUFACTURING MARKET
We sell a variety of our steel products, including hot-rolled, cold-rolled, galvanized, plate, stainless, electrical, tinplate and rail, to the infrastructure and manufacturing market. This market includes sales to manufacturers of HVAC, appliances, power transmission and distribution transformers, storage tanks, ships, railcars, wind towers, machinery parts, heavy equipment, military armor, food preservation and railway lines. Domestic construction activity and the replacement of aging infrastructure directly affect sales of steel to this market. Recent government legislation, including the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, is expected to keep demand elevated for steel products related to renewable energy, as well as the modernization of the U.S. electrical grid. Our plate products can be used in windmills, which we estimate contain 130 metric tons of steel per megawatt of electrical generating capacity. Additionally, we estimate solar panels consume 40 metric tons of steel per megawatt of electrical generating capacity. We should also continue to benefit from a tax credit provided by the Inflation Reduction Act for consumers who buy new EVs, which should increase the demand for our electrical steel used in charging stations.
Sales to this end market are made under a combination of annual fixed price contracts and index-linked pricing arrangements. Our selling prices under our annual fixed price contracts are expected to be roughly similar in 2024 when compared to the prior year.
DISTRIBUTORS AND CONVERTERS MARKET
Virtually all of the grades of steel we produce are sold to the steel distributors and converters market. This market generally represents downstream steel service centers, which source various types of steel from us and fabricate it according to their customers' needs. Our steel is typically sold to this market on a spot basis or under contracts linked to steel pricing indices. Demand and pricing for this market can be highly dependent on a variety of factors, including global and domestic commodity steel production capacity, demand for manufactured goods, the price of scrap, the relative health of the global economy, the import and export levels of other steel producing nations, service center inventory management, the provisions of international trade agreements and fluctuations in international currencies.
The price for domestic HRC, the most significant index in driving the revenues and profitability of our Steelmaking segment, averaged $906 per net ton for 2023, compared to $1,011 per net ton in 2022. The main decline in pricing occurred in the third quarter of 2023 as demand from service centers was adversely impacted due to the anticipation of, and ultimate occurrence of, the UAW strike at certain domestic automotive producers. The automotive strike concluded in the fourth quarter of 2023, resulting in increased demand from our automotive and service center customers. This increased demand led to a sharp rebound in HRC pricing, which ended the year at approximately $1,100 per net ton.
STEEL PRODUCERS MARKET
The steel producers market represents third-party sales to other steel producers, including those who operate blast furnaces and EAFs. It includes sales of raw materials and semi-finished and finished goods, including iron ore pellets, coal, coke, HBI, scrap, slab and other steel products.
FPT is one of the largest processors of prime scrap in the country. Our scrap presence has developed further since acquiring FPT as we have leveraged our long-standing flat-rolled automotive and other customer relationships into recycling partnerships. Our
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steelmaking operations consume a large portion of the ferrous scrap processed by FPT. We also have third-party sales of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap.
Third-party slab sales are also a large component of sales to this market, which are primarily made under a long-term supply agreement that was initiated in connection with the closing of the AM USA Transaction.
Production from our iron ore mines is predominantly consumed by our steelmaking operations. During 2023 and 2022, we sold 4 million and 3 million long tons of iron ore products, respectively, to third parties from our share of production from our iron ore mines. The merchant portion of our iron ore pellet production is sold pursuant to long-term supply agreements and through spot contracts.
The price of busheling scrap, a necessary input for flat-rolled steel production in EAFs in the U.S., averaged $488 per long ton during 2023, an 8% decrease from the prior year, but remained well above the historical ten-year average of approximately $390 per long ton. We expect the price of busheling scrap to remain elevated above historical averages in the coming years due to the continued decline of prime scrap generation and the growth of EAF capacity in the U.S., along with a push for expanded scrap use globally.
APPLIED TECHNOLOGY, RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
The utilization of our research and development capabilities has allowed us to introduce new steel products to the marketplace. Our research and development activities provide us the ability to offer a broad range of steel products, improve existing products and processes and develop new ones. As part of our underlying strategy to maintain and improve our product, service and technical capabilities, research and innovation spend totaled $30 million and $24 million in 2023 and 2022, respectively.
As the largest supplier of steel to the automotive industry in North America, it is important that we maintain our world-class research and development team to expand our capabilities and bring new steel products to the marketplace. Our ongoing efforts begin at our state-of-the-art Research and Innovation Center in Middletown, Ohio, where we collaborate with our automotive customers and their suppliers to develop products that meet their needs. We have a customer technical support team that is dedicated to understanding customers’ current and long-term requirements and translating them into product designs. The dedication and resources we allocate toward our research and development help us maintain our extensive product offering and provide our automotive customers with solutions to meet their steel needs. Our research and development capabilities will support us in efforts to remain the leading supplier to the automotive industry as automotive manufacturers continue to pursue EVs, lighter weight vehicles and other advancements in vehicle capabilities.
A prime example of our ability to help our customers through research and development can be seen in the support and products we offer as automotive manufacturers have started increasing their development of EVs to meet the growing consumer adoption of EVs. During 2023, we introduced our C-STAR™ protection design, which was developed for the purpose of providing EV battery protection for improved safety purposes, but can be used in any type of light vehicle. We also introduced an all steel battery box design utilizing various grades of AHSS for improved use for lower GHG emissions, to maintain light-weighting targets, and to gain cost benefits when compared to using alternative materials. We are also a leading producer in North America of high-efficiency NOES, which is a critical component of EV motors. Our MOTOR-MAX™ NOES product line is used for high frequency motors and generators. We believe our strong foundation in electrical steels and long-standing relationships with automotive manufacturers and their suppliers will provide us with an advantage in this market as it continues to grow and mature.
COMPETITION
Our Steelmaking segment primarily competes with domestic and foreign producers of flat-rolled carbon, plate, tinplate, stainless, rail and electrical steel, carbon and stainless tubular products, aluminum, carbon fiber, concrete and other materials that may be used as a substitute for flat-rolled steels in manufactured products. Our Tooling and Stamping and Tubular Components businesses both compete against other niche downstream business in highly fragmented markets.
The steel industry is often viewed as volatile and is subject to the market price of steel. Market pricing can be adversely impacted from foreign competition selling steel products into the U.S. at discounts and the oversupply of steel products within the domestic market from both domestic and foreign competition. To limit our exposure to volatility from market pricing, we have structured our business to have an industry leading portion of fixed price contracts. Our fixed price contracts provide us stability on a large portion of our business when market pricing is volatile.
Price, quality, on-time delivery, customer service, technical expertise and product innovation are the primary competitive factors in the steel industry and vary in importance according to the product category and customer requirements. Steel producers that sell to the automotive market are required to meet strict and high-quality product specifications that demand strong technical capabilities, investment in capital and other resources to manage inventory, customer service, and research and development. As the largest supplier of steel to the automotive industry in North America, we continue to meet all the requirements needed to serve the automotive industry and maintain our position as an industry leader going forward. Significant capital investments in equipment, technology and other resources that would effectively replicate our processes, at a likely higher cost than ours, would be required for certain competitors to meet all the demands required of the automotive industry.
The steel industry has faced competition from aluminum manufacturers (and, to a lesser extent, other materials) as automotive manufacturers attempt to develop vehicles that are lighter in weight. To address automotive manufacturers’ light weighting needs that the aluminum industry is targeting, we have developed AHSS grades that we believe provide weight savings similar to aluminum, while being stronger, less costly, easier to repair, more sustainable and more environmentally friendly. Aluminum penetration has been primarily limited to specific automotive applications, such as outer panels and closures, rather than entire
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body designs. In addition, our automotive customers who continue to use steel, as opposed to aluminum and other alternative materials, are able to avoid the significant capital expenditures required to re-tool their manufacturing processes to accommodate the use of non-steel materials.
EAFs comprise over 70% of steel production and more than 40% of flat-rolled steel production in the U.S. The primary raw materials used by EAFs include scrap metal and ore based metallics, which have unpredictable and often volatile pricing. Additionally, the availability of these materials can be unreliable as most competition relies on imported ore based metallics. Due to recently completed and further announced flat-rolled EAF capacity additions in the U.S. and increasing focus on industry decarbonization, we expect the price of scrap to remain elevated over historical averages, providing our integrated footprint a competitive cost advantage. Our integrated facilities utilize domestic internally sourced iron ore as the primary feedstock, which allows us to produce high-quality products with low residual content. We also possess the breadth and depth related to customer service, technical support, and research and development necessary to supply the demanding needs of the automotive industry and other demanding end markets. The additional capacity from domestic EAF competition could displace imports as the U.S. is still the largest net importer of steel in the world, and domestically produced steel is generally more environmentally friendly than imported steel.
Domestic steel producers can face significant competition from foreign producers. In certain instances, these foreign producers are often able to sell products in the U.S. at prices substantially lower than domestic producers. Depending on the country of origin, these reasons may include government subsidies; illegal dumping; lower labor, raw material, energy and regulatory costs; less stringent environmental regulations; less stringent safety requirements; the maintenance of artificially low exchange rates against the U.S. dollar; and preferential trade practices in their home countries. In 2023, finished steel imports decreased 14% compared to the prior year as imports were unattractive for the majority of 2023 due to low pricing spreads between the U.S. and other regions. However, a disparity between domestic and foreign steel prices or modifications to certain trade restrictions currently in place on imported steel by government authorities could directly or indirectly impact import levels in the future. Import levels are also affected to varying degrees by the relative level of steel production in China and other countries, the strength of demand for steel outside the U.S., and the relative strength or weakness of the U.S. dollar against various foreign currencies. Imports of finished steel into the U.S. accounted for 21% of domestic steel market consumption in 2023.
We continue to provide significant pension and healthcare benefits to a greater number of our retirees compared to certain other domestic and foreign steel producers that do not provide such benefits to any or most of their retirees, which impacts our overall cost of production relative to certain other steelmakers. However, we have taken a number of actions to reduce pension and healthcare benefits costs, including using our size and scale to proactively renegotiate lower healthcare premiums, negotiating progressive labor agreements, transferring responsibility for healthcare benefits for various groups of retirees to VEBAs, offering voluntary lump-sum settlements to pension plan participants and lowering retiree benefit costs for salaried employees. These actions have not only reduced some of the risks associated with our pension funding obligations, but more importantly have reduced our risk exposure to performance of the financial markets, which is a principal driver of pension funding requirements. We continue to actively seek opportunities to reduce pension and healthcare benefits costs.
ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS
Our operations are subject to various laws and regulations governing the protection of the environment. We monitor these laws and regulations, which change over time, to assess whether the changes affect our operations. We conduct our operations in a manner that is protective of public health and the environment.
Environmental matters and their management continue to be an important focus at each of our operations. From 2017 to 2021, we invested approximately $1 billion into our Toledo direct reduction plant, which provides a low carbon intensity raw material to our steelmaking operations. The HBI produced from the plant requires less energy to produce compared to traditional feedstock and can be used in blast furnaces to reduce emissions by improving energy efficiency and reducing the amount of coke required for steel production.
In the construction and operation of our facilities, substantial costs have been and will continue to be incurred to comply with regulatory requirements and avoid undue effect on the environment. In 2023, 2022 and 2021, our capital expenditures relating to environmental matters totaled $66 million, $133 million and $62 million, respectively. Our current estimate for capital expenditures for environmental improvements in 2024 is approximately $75 million for various water treatment, air quality, dust control, tailings management and other miscellaneous environmental projects. Additionally, we expect capital expenditures for environmental improvements for each of 2025 and 2026 to be generally in line with 2024's estimated spending.
REGULATORY DEVELOPMENTS
Various governmental bodies continually promulgate new or amended laws and regulations that affect us, our customers and our suppliers in many areas, including air and water discharges, waste management and disposal, the classification of materials and products and 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, regulations or permits would reasonably be expected to result in a material adverse effect on our business or financial condition, we cannot predict the collective potential adverse impact of the expanding body of laws and regulations. Moreover, because all domestic steel, scrap and mining producers operate under the same federal environmental regulations, we do not believe that we are more disadvantaged than our domestic competitors by our need to comply with these regulations. Some foreign competitors may benefit from less stringent environmental requirements in the countries where they produce, resulting in lower compliance costs for them and providing those foreign competitors with a cost advantage on their products.
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Specifically, there are several notable proposed or potential rulemakings or activities that could have a material adverse impact on our facilities in the future depending on their ultimate outcome: climate change and GHG regulations; changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulate matter; changes to ozone transport regulations; selenium discharge regulation; Minnesota's sulfate wild rice water quality standard; Minnesota's mercury TMDL and mercury reduction rules; and changes to National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants in the taconite, iron and steel, and coke sectors.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND GREENHOUSE GAS REGULATIONS
Continued attention to issues concerning climate change, the role of human activity in affecting climate change, and potential mitigation through regulation and legislation may have a material impact on our customers and suppliers, our operations and financial results in the future. Policymakers are evaluating or developing carbon regulation at the state, regional, national and international levels. Additionally, international treaties or agreements such as the Paris Agreement may influence legislative and regulatory decisions in the U.S. Potential climate-related regulations and legislation that could impact our business include reporting obligations, such as the climate accountability package enacted in California in late 2023, mandatory carbon reductions, carbon pricing mechanisms and trade policies, such as the European Union's Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which entered into its transitional phase late in 2023, and climate-related procurement and product labeling requirements. The dynamic forward outlook for these potential regulations presents a challenge to large industrial companies to assess the long-term net impacts of carbon compliance costs on their operations. In the absence of comprehensive federal carbon legislation, numerous state, regional and federal regulatory initiatives are under development or are becoming effective, thereby creating a disjointed approach to GHG emissions control, potential carbon pricing and climate-related procurement activities. We intend to remain active in the discussions related to legislative and regulatory changes at the federal and state levels.
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 adaptation. We are continuing to review the physical risks related to climate change. As an energy-intensive business, we have a broad range of GHG emissions sources, such as iron ore furnaces and kilns, mobile equipment, EAFs and integrated steelmaking facilities, among others. As such, among our most significant regulatory risks are: (1) the costs associated with on-site emissions levels (direct impacts) or the reduction thereof; and (2) indirect costs passed through to us from energy providers and other suppliers (indirect impacts).
Internationally, mechanisms to require or incentivize emissions reductions are being implemented in various countries, with differing designs and stringency, according to resources, economic structure and politics. However, some foreign competitors may benefit from less stringent climate-related requirements, providing those foreign competitors with a cost advantage on their products.
Due to the potential variety of federal, state or international carbon restriction schemes, our business and customer base could suffer negative financial impacts over time as a result of increased energy, environmental and other costs to comply with the limitations that could be imposed on GHG emissions. We believe our exposure can be reduced by numerous factors, including engaging with relevant stakeholders and policymakers on potential GHG regulation and legislation; emissions reduction opportunities, such as energy efficiency, industrial electrification, carbon capture, utilization and sequestration, renewable energy and fuel flexibility, such as hydrogen; and other efficiency-improving material inputs, products and technologies.
CHANGES TO NATIONAL AMBIENT AIR QUALITY STANDARDS FOR PARTICULATE MATTER
On January 6, 2023, the EPA proposed changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter. The proposal sought comment on lowering the primary annual fine particulate matter (PM2.5) level from 12 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) of air to 9 – 10 ug/m3 while taking comment on alternative annual standard levels down to 8 ug/m3 and up to 11 ug/m3. The EPA also proposed to retain the current primary 24-hour PM2.5 standard of 35 ug/m3 while soliciting comments on revising the level as low as 25 ug/m3. The lower the standard, the greater potential effect on our operations. We actively engaged with various experts and trade associations to provide legal and technical comments on the proposal. On February 7, 2024, the EPA issued a final rule lowering the primary annual PM2.5 standard to 9.0 ug/m3. This standard will be final 60 days after publication in the Federal Register and will affect permitting for new or modified sources after that date. States will have three and a half years to submit State Implementation Plans to the EPA detailing how they intend to address existing sources that affect any nonattainment areas in the state. The EPA retained the current primary 24-hour PM2.5 standard of 35 ug/m3. The potential changes to air pollution control equipment or operations needed at our plants to comply with the new particulate matter standard are not known at this time, and the potential cost is not estimable but could be material. It is highly likely that the revised standard will be appealed, and a stay of the standard could be issued, but is uncertain.
CHANGES TO OZONE TRANSPORT REGULATIONS
In 2022, the EPA proposed to impose new standards for nitrogen oxide (an ozone precursor) on various industries (including the steel and iron ore sectors) that operate in specific states, including numerous states where we operate (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia). Although there were changes in the final rule that resulted in less impact to our operations, we are appealing the final rule as it applies to reheat furnaces and boilers. If the appeal is unsuccessful, then we will have to invest in new or revised air pollution control equipment, for which the actual cost is unknown but could be material.
SELENIUM DISCHARGE REGULATION
In Michigan, our Empire and Tilden mines have implemented compliance plans to manage selenium according to applicable permit conditions. Construction of a water treatment system for both facilities is anticipated to begin in 2028, and the system is anticipated to be operational in 2030. As of December 31, 2023, included within our Empire asset retirement obligation is a discounted liability of approximately $131 million, which includes the estimated costs associated with the construction of Empire's portion of the required infrastructure and expected future operating costs of the treatment facilities. Additionally, included within our Tilden future
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capital plan is approximately $32 million for the construction of Tilden's portion of the required infrastructure. We are continuing to assess and develop potential cost effective and sustainable selenium treatment technologies.
In July 2016, the EPA published new selenium fish tissue limits and lower lentic and lotic water column concentration criteria, which may someday increase the cost for treatment should the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy adopt these new standards in lieu of the existing limits required by the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative. Accordingly, we cannot reasonably estimate the timing or long-term impact of these water quality criteria on our business.
MINNESOTA'S SULFATE WILD RICE WATER QUALITY STANDARD
The Minnesota Governor established a Wild Rice Task Force by Executive Order in May 2018 that provided recommendations on wild rice restoration and regulation. The existing sulfate water quality standard for lakes and streams that contain wild rice has not been applied to any of our discharge permits or enforced historically by Minnesota. Further, the standard may be unenforceable because of legislation that prohibits the MPCA from enforcing it until the obsolete standard is updated based on modern science.
Minnesota submitted a list of impaired water revisions to the EPA in 2020. In 2021, the EPA disapproved of Minnesota’s draft list and subsequently announced its proposed list of wild rice water bodies that were impaired due to sulfate under the Clean Water Act’s Section 303(d) process, which resulted in the addition of 32 waters in November 2021. At this time, it is unknown how the MPCA intends to implement requirements to address sulfate impaired waters.
For these reasons, the impact of potential obligations to address sulfate concentrations in certain water discharges from our Minnesota iron ore mining and pelletizing operations is not estimable at this time, but it could have a material adverse impact if we are required to significantly reduce sulfate in certain discharges.
MINNESOTA'S MERCURY TMDL AND MERCURY REDUCTION RULES
In September 2014, Minnesota promulgated the Mercury Air Emissions Reporting and Reduction Rules, mandating mercury air emissions reporting and reductions from certain sources, including taconite facilities. The rules apply to all of our Minnesota iron ore mining and pelletizing operations and required submittal of a Mercury Reduction Plan to the MPCA in 2018 with plan implementation requirements becoming effective on January 1, 2025. In the Mercury Reduction Plan, facilities evaluated if available control technologies could technically achieve a 72% mercury reduction rate. If available control technologies could not technically achieve a 72% mercury reduction rate, the facilities must propose alternative mercury reduction measures. One of the main tenets agreed upon for evaluating potential mercury reduction technologies during TMDL implementation and 2014 rule development proceedings was that the selected technology must meet the following “Adaptive Management Criteria”: the technology must be technically feasible; must be economically feasible; must not impact pellet quality; and must not cause excessive corrosion in the indurating furnaces or air pollution control equipment.
The Mercury Reduction Plans for our Minnesota facilities were submitted to the MPCA in December 2018. The plans determined that there are currently no proven technologies to cost effectively reduce mercury emissions from taconite furnaces to achieve the targeted 72% reduction rate, while satisfying all Adaptive Management Criteria. This determination was based on detailed engineering analysis and research testing. In January 2023, MPCA responded that certain technologies may be appropriate, and MPCA requested submission of revised Mercury Reduction Plans from the facilities within 180 days of the effective date of the forthcoming Taconite National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants rule. Potential impacts to us are not estimable at this time because the revised Mercury Reduction Plans remain under development.
RISK AND TECHNOLOGY REVIEWS FOR TACONITE, INTEGRATED IRON AND STEEL, AND COKE CATEGORIES
Under the Clean Air Act, within eight years after promulgating National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants in industry-specific categories, the EPA must review the standards to determine whether they continue to protect public health with an ample margin of safety and protect against adverse environment effects. In addition, the EPA is required to review and revise the standard every eight years to account for improvements in HAP control technology or methods.
The EPA has worked with the taconite and integrated iron and steel industries for years to collect data in order to recalculate the risk from HAP emissions from each category and to address whether new technologies existed in those sectors. In 2020, the EPA determined that the risk from the sources in both of those categories was acceptable and adopted new rules for both sectors in 2020. However, also in 2020, a court ruled that the EPA must address all HAPs in its National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants Risk and Technology Reviews. See Louisiana Environmental Action Network, et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency and Andrew Wheeler 955 F.3d 1088 (D.C. Cir. 2020). The EPA then reopened the rulemakings for numerous source categories, including taconite and integrated iron and steel, to confirm that all HAPs had been addressed in the updates to those rules.
In 2023, the EPA determined that several HAPs are emitted from the sectors that are not yet regulated, so the EPA proposed new standards for those specific HAPs. In addition, the EPA based some proposed regulatory changes on what it deemed technological developments in the sectors. Several trade organizations commented on the proposed rules with our input, and the rules are expected to be finalized in 2024. Some proposed changes, if finalized as proposed and if upheld on appeal, could result in significant expenditures for our taconite, iron and steel, or coke oven assets. At this time the exact expenditures are unknown. We intend to use all available tools to ensure that the regulations are based on sound science and feasible technology.
In 2023, the EPA likewise determined that the residual risk from coke ovens and from coke pushing, quenching, and battery stacks were low, and that no new technology developments justified changes to the regulations. However, the EPA proposed new limits on formerly unregulated HAPs and other requirements that, taken together, could require investments at our coke facilities. At this time, the amount of anticipated expenditures is unknown.
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OTHER GOVERNMENT LAWS AND REGULATIONS
In addition to environmental laws and regulations, we are subject to various laws and regulations around the world. For example, changes in trade regulations, including tariffs or other import or export restrictions, could lead to lower or more volatile global steel prices, impacting our profitability. In addition, health and safety regulations, including OSHA and MSHA regulations, have necessitated, and may continue to necessitate, increased operating costs or capital investments to promote a safe working environment. We are also required to comply with complex foreign and U.S. laws and regulations, which may include the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other anti-bribery laws, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and other U.S. and foreign privacy regulations, and transportation and logistics regulations. The laws and regulations noted above, as well as other applicable laws and regulations, or the manner in which they are interpreted or enforced, may require us to make material investments in the form of additional processes, training and capital, among other things. For a discussion of the risks associated with certain applicable laws and regulations, see Part I – Item 1A. Risk Factors.
RAW MATERIALS AND ENERGY
Our steelmaking operations require iron ore, HBI, coke, coal, ferrous and carbon and stainless scrap, chrome, nickel, zinc and other alloys as primary raw materials. We also consume natural gas, electricity, industrial gases and diesel fuel at our operations. As a vertically integrated steel company, we are able to internally supply a majority of our ferrous raw materials needed for our steelmaking operations. We also attempt to reduce the risk of future supply shortages and price volatility in other ways. If multi-year contracts are available in the marketplace for those raw materials that we cannot supply internally, we may use these contracts to secure sufficient supply to satisfy our key raw material needs. When multi-year contracts are not available, or are not available on acceptable terms, we purchase the remainder of our raw material needs under annual contracts or conduct spot purchases. We also regularly evaluate alternative sources and substitute materials. Additionally, we may hedge portions of our energy and raw materials purchases to reduce volatility and risk. We believe that we have secured, or will be able to secure, adequate supply to fulfill our raw materials and energy requirements for 2024.
The raw materials needed to produce a ton of steel will fluctuate based upon the specifications of the final steel products, the quality of raw materials and, to a lesser extent, differences among steel production equipment. For example, generally, in our integrated steelmaking facilities, we consume approximately 1.4 net tons of coal to produce one net ton of coke. The process to produce one ton of raw steel (generally defined as a carbon slab) requires approximately 1.4 net tons of iron ore pellets and/or HBI pellet equivalents, 0.3 to 0.4 net tons of coke and 0.3 net tons of steel scrap or scrap substitutes. At normal operating levels, we also consume approximately 5 to 6 MMBtu’s of natural gas per net ton of raw steel produced, prior to rolling, finishing and further processing. Additionally, on average, our EAFs require 1.1 net tons of ferrous scrap, stainless scrap or scrap substitutes to produce one net ton of steel. While these estimated consumption amounts are presented to give a general sense of raw material and energy consumption used in our steel production, substantial variations may occur.
IRON ORE
We own or co-own five active iron ore mines in Minnesota and Michigan. Based on our ownership in these mines, our share of annual rated iron ore production capacity is approximately 28 million long tons, which supplies all of the iron ore needed for our steelmaking operations. Refer to Part I - Item 2. Properties for additional information.
HBI
Our investment into HBI production provides us access, when needed, to clean iron units in order to make advanced steel and stainless products. This access to our own production provides us flexibility and allows us to avoid the risks and carbon footprints of imported iron substitutes. Iron substitutes imported into the U.S. are traditionally sourced from regions of the world that have historically experienced greater political turmoil and have lower pollution standards than the U.S. Our investment demonstrates our raw material and company strategy in responsibly managing the risks of pricing, availability and overall carbon footprint of our critical inputs. We have an annual capacity of 1.9 million metric tons of HBI per year.
COKE AND COAL
We own three active cokemaking facilities, including one coke plant located within our Burns Harbor facility. These facilities currently provide approximately half of the coke requirements for our steelmaking operations and have an annual rated capacity of 2.6 million net tons. Additionally, we have coke supply agreements with suppliers that provide our remaining requirements. Our purchases of coke are made under annual or multi-year agreements with periodic price adjustments.
We have annual rated metallurgical coal production capacity of 1.8 million net tons from our Princeton mine, which supplies a portion of our metallurgical coal needs. We typically purchase most of our metallurgical coal under annual fixed price agreements. We believe there are adequate external supplies of coke and coal available at competitive market prices to meet our needs. Refer to Part I - Item 2. Properties for additional information.
STEEL SCRAP
We own the assets of FPT, which provides us sourcing and processing capabilities for both prime and obsolete scrap. This access is critical, because prime scrap demand is expected to grow as new flat-rolled EAF capacity has started to come online and is expected to increase in the coming years. FPT includes 22 facilities that are primarily located in the Midwest near our steel
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facilities. Additionally, our access to scrap furthers our commitment to being an environmentally-friendly, low-carbon intensity steelmaker with a cleaner materials mix as we are able to better optimize productivity at our existing EAFs and BOFs.
The majority of our scrap requirements can be generated or processed from internal sources, including scrap generated at our steel production facilities. We believe that supplies of additional steel scrap to meet the needs of our steelmaking operations are readily available from outside sources at competitive market prices.
OTHER MATERIALS
We believe that supplies of chrome, nickel, zinc and other alloys adequate to meet the needs of our steelmaking operations are readily available from outside sources at competitive market prices.
ENERGY
We consume a large amount of natural gas, electricity, industrial gases and diesel fuel, which are significant costs to our operations. The majority of our energy requirements are purchased from outside sources. Access to long-term, low-cost sources of energy in various forms is critically important to our operations.
Natural gas is procured for our operations utilizing a combination of long-term, annual, quarterly, monthly and spot contracts from various suppliers at market-based pricing. We believe access to low-cost and reliable sources of natural gas is available to meet our operations’ requirements.
We purchase electricity for all of our operations in either regulated or deregulated markets. Due to the distinct nature of the regulated market, we procure electricity through either long-term or annual contracts. In deregulated markets, we purchase the majority of our electricity in the day-ahead market. Some of our operations also use self-generated coke oven gas and/or blast furnace gas to produce electricity, which is an environmentally-friendly practice that also reduces our need to purchase electricity from external sources. We also closely monitor developments at the state and federal levels that could impact electricity availability or cost and incorporate such changes into our electricity supply strategy in order to maintain reliable, low-cost supply. We also are currently contracting for the increased use of renewable energy to complement our existing supply, which will reduce our emissions profile. We believe there is an adequate supply of competitively priced electricity to fulfill our requirements.
We purchase industrial gases and diesel fuel under long-term contracts with various suppliers. We believe we have access to adequate supplies of industrial gases and diesel fuel to meet our needs.
HUMAN CAPITAL
Cliffs has a long, proven history of attracting and retaining exceptional talent. We believe our employee-centric management philosophy is the key to our success.
As of December 31, 2023, we employed approximately 28,000 people, with approximately 27,000 employed in the U.S. Approximately 26,000 employees were employed at production facilities, with the balance employed in corporate support roles. The vast majority of our approximately 22,000 hourly employees were subject to collective bargaining agreements (approximately 20,000) with various labor unions.
LABOR RELATIONS
Our labor relations philosophy is a cornerstone of our talent strategy. At Cliffs, we know that maintaining strong, positive relationships with labor unions is key to our long-term growth. We recognize and respect the right of our employees to freely associate and collectively bargain, and we do not engage in harassment, intimidation or retaliation for their efforts to bargain collectively. 
More than 90% of Cliffs’ hourly workforce are represented by three prominent unions — USW, UAW and IAM. The hardworking union-represented men and women of Cliffs are the lifeblood of our Company. Our employees operate and maintain our facilities and are, ultimately, responsible for safely delivering a quality product internally and to our customers. Therefore, we engage with our unions as business partners, and together we have achieved a number of successes that benefit our business and our people alike.
We are proud to report that we successfully renegotiated all of our open labor agreements during 2023 without any difficulty or disruption. Our hourly employees at our Northshore Mining operation also elected to unionize in 2023, and we successfully negotiated a new labor agreement there with the USW on an expedited basis. This positive partnership with our unions helps us remain competitive for talent and protects our customers and their supply chains from disruptions due to labor disagreements.
TALENT RETENTION
We believe that our future success largely depends upon our continued ability to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce. We provide our employees with competitive salaries, incentive-based bonus programs that provide above-market compensation opportunities when our Company performs well, development programs that enable continued learning and growth, and a robust benefits package that promotes well-being across all aspects of their lives, including health care, retirement planning and paid time off. In addition to these programs, we have used targeted, equity-based grants with vesting conditions to facilitate retention of key personnel. These tools have enabled us to increase the retention of key personnel, including our corporate and site leadership teams and critical technical talent.
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ROBUST EMPLOYEE BENEFITS PROGRAMS
The success of our business is fundamentally connected to the well-being of our people. Accordingly, we are committed to the health, safety and wellness of our employees. We provide our employees and their families with access to a variety of innovative, flexible and convenient health and wellness programs, including benefits that provide protection and security so they can have peace of mind concerning events that may require time away from work or that impact their financial well-being; that support their physical and mental health by providing tools and resources to help them improve or maintain their health and encourage engagement in healthy behaviors; and that offer choice so they can customize their benefits to meet their needs and the needs of their families.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION
We continue to foster a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion at Cliffs. Through our OneCliffs Way of Doing Business (our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics), we outline our Core Values, which include Trust, Respect and Open Communication. To us, this means encouraging and accepting different views and supporting and advancing gender and racial diversity. Further, our OneCliffs Way of Doing Business provides that we will not make employment-related decisions nor will we discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, military or veteran status, disability, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), pregnancy, genetic information, ethnicity or any other characteristic protected by applicable law. We strive to make Cliffs a safe place to work for all. Harassment and/or intimidation are not tolerated anywhere in our Company. This allows our employees to develop a career at Cliffs by focusing on the meaningful and challenging work at our Company.
SAFETY
Safe production is our primary core value as we continue to reinforce a zero injury culture at our facilities. We constantly monitor our safety performance and make continuous improvements to effect change. Best practices and incident learnings are shared throughout the Company to ensure each facility can administer the most effective policies and procedures for enhanced workplace safety. Progress toward achieving our objectives is accomplished through a focus on proactive sustainable safety initiatives, and results are measured against established industry and Company benchmarks, including our Company-wide Total Reportable Incident Rate. During 2023, our Total Reportable Incident Rate (including contractors) was 1.22 per 200,000 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.
AVAILABLE INFORMATION
Our headquarters are located at 200 Public Square, Suite 3300, 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.
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.clevelandcliffs.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 Reports 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, the charters of the Audit Committee, Strategy and Sustainability Committee, Governance and Nominating Committee, and Compensation and Organization Committee, as well as the Corporate Governance Guidelines, and the Code of Business Conduct and Ethics adopted by our Board of Directors. These documents are available through our investor relations page on our website at www.clevelandcliffs.com. The SEC filings are available by selecting “Investors” and then “SEC Filings,” and corporate governance materials are available by selecting "Investors" and then “Governance” for the Board Committee Charters, the Corporate 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:
Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.
Investor Relations
200 Public Square, Suite 3300
Cleveland, OH 44114-2315
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INFORMATION ABOUT OUR EXECUTIVE OFFICERS
Following are the names, ages and positions of the executive officers of the Company as of February 8, 2024. Unless otherwise noted, all positions indicated are or were held with Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.
NameAgePosition(s) Held
Lourenco Goncalves65Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer (August 2014 – present); and 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).
Clifford Smith64Executive Vice President & President, Cleveland-Cliffs Steel (September 2021 – present); Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer (January 2019 – September 2021); and Executive Vice President, Business Development (April 2015 – January 2019).
Keith Koci59Executive Vice President & President, Cleveland-Cliffs Services (September 2021 – present); Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer (February 2019 – September 2021); and Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Metals USA Holdings Corp. (2013 – February 2019).
Celso Goncalves35Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer (September 2021 – present); Senior Vice President, Finance & Treasurer (March 2020 – September 2021); and Vice President, Treasurer (January 2018 – March 2020).
Terry Fedor59Executive Vice President, Operations (October 2022 – present); Executive Vice President, Operations, East (September 2021 – October 2022); Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Steel Mills (March 2020 – September 2021); Executive Vice President, Operations (February 2019 – March 2020); and Executive Vice President, U.S. Iron Ore (January 2014 – February 2019).
Traci Forrester52Executive Vice President, Environmental & Sustainability (May 2021 – present); Executive Vice President, Business Development (May 2019 – May 2021); and Vice President, Deputy General Counsel & Assistant Secretary (January 2018 – May 2019).
James Graham58Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer & Secretary (January 2024 – present); Executive Vice President, Human Resources, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer & Secretary (April 2022 – January 2024); and Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer & Secretary (November 2014 – April 2022).
Kimberly Floriani41Senior Vice President, Controller & Chief Accounting Officer (August 2021 – present); Vice President, Corporate Controller & Chief Accounting Officer (April 2020 – August 2021); and Director, Accounting & Reporting (August 2015 – April 2020).
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. Celso Goncalves, our Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, is the son of Lourenco Goncalves, our Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. There is no other family relationship between any of our executive officers or between any of our executive officers and any of our directors.
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ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
An investment in our common shares or other securities is subject to risks inherent in our businesses and the industries in which we operate. We describe below certain risks and uncertainties, the occurrences of which could have a material adverse effect on us. The risks and uncertainties described below include known material risks that we face currently, but our material risks are constantly evolving, and the below descriptions may not include future risks that are not presently known, that are not currently believed to be material or that are common to all businesses. Investors should not interpret the disclosure of any risk to imply that such risk has not already materialized. Although we have extensive risk management policies, practices and procedures in place that are aimed at mitigating these risks, the occurrence of these uncertainties may nevertheless impair our business operations and adversely affect the actual outcome of matters as to which forward-looking statements are made. This report is qualified in its entirety by these risk factors. Before making an investment decision, investors should carefully consider all of the risks described below together with the other information included in this report and the other reports we file with the SEC.
Management has identified several categories of material risks that we are subject to, including: (I) economic and market, (II) regulatory, (III) financial, (IV) operational, (V) sustainability and development and (VI) human capital. Although we have organized the risks by these headings and we have discussed each risk separately, many of the risks are interrelated.
I. ECONOMIC AND MARKET RISKS
The volatility of commodity prices, including steel, iron ore and scrap metal, directly and indirectly affects our ability to generate revenue, maintain stable cash flows and fund our operations.
Our profitability is dependent upon the historically volatile market prices of steel, iron ore and scrap metal. We experience direct impacts of steel price fluctuations through customer sales, as well as direct and indirect impacts of iron ore and scrap metal price fluctuations through third-party sales and the impacts that movements in iron ore and scrap metal prices have on steel prices. As described elsewhere in this report, the prices of steel, iron ore and scrap metal have fluctuated significantly in the recent past, and these pricing shifts are unpredictable and affected by factors beyond our control, including: international demand for, and the impact of higher rates of inflation on, raw materials used in steel production; availability of scrap metal substitutes such as pig iron; commodity price speculation; rates of global economic growth, especially construction and infrastructure activity that requires significant amounts of steel; changes in the levels of economic activity in the U.S., China, India, Europe and other industrialized or developing economies, including as a result of geopolitical conflicts or otherwise; changes in China’s emissions policies and environmental compliance enforcement practices; changes in the production capacity, production rate and inventory levels of other steel producers, distributors, iron ore suppliers and scrap metal processors and traders; changes in trade laws; volumes of unfairly traded imports; imposition or termination of duties, tariffs, import and export controls and other trade barriers impacting the steel and iron ore markets; climate change and other weather-related disruptions, infectious disease outbreaks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or natural disasters that may impact the global supply of steel, iron ore or scrap metal; and the proximity, capacity and cost of infrastructure and transportation.
Our revenues, therefore, vary in accordance with the prices of the products we sell. During 2023, for example, we experienced lower average selling prices for our steel products as compared to 2022 due to the impact from lower index pricing, which resulted in lower revenues despite increased sales volumes. To the extent that commodity prices, including the HRC price, coated and other specialty steel prices, international steel prices and scrap metal prices, significantly decline for an extended period, we may have to further revise our operating plans, including curtailing production, reducing operating costs and deferring capital expenditures. As a result, we also may have to record impairments on our goodwill, intangible assets, long-lived assets and/or inventory. Sustained lower prices also could cause us to further reduce existing mineral reserves if certain reserves can no longer be economically mined or processed at prevailing prices. Particularly during periods of increased inflation resulting in higher input costs, 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.
We sell a significant portion of our steel products to the automotive market, and fluctuations or changes in the automotive market could adversely affect our business operations and financial performance.
The largest end user for our steel products is the automotive industry in North America. Beyond these direct sales to the automotive industry, we make additional sales to distributors and converters, which may ultimately resell some of that volume to the automotive market. In addition to the magnitude of our exposure to the automotive industry, we face risks arising from our relative concentration of sales to certain specific automotive manufacturers, and our sales volumes and revenues may be adversely affected if we are unable to renew our fixed price contracts with one or more significant automotive customers or if those customers choose to move certain portions of their parts business to alternate suppliers. Automotive production and sales are cyclical and sensitive to general economic conditions and other factors, including interest rates, consumer credit, spending and preferences, and supply chain disruptions. If automotive production and sales decline, whether due to consumers facing reduced purchasing power caused by inflation, higher interest rates or otherwise, our sales and shipments to the automotive market are likely to decline in a corresponding manner. Adverse impacts that we may sustain as a result include, without limitation, lower margins because of the need to sell our steel to less profitable customers and markets, higher fixed costs from lower steel production if we are unable to sell the same amount of steel to other customers and markets, and lower sales, shipments, pricing and margins generally as our competitors face similar challenges and compete vigorously in other markets that we serve. These adverse impacts could negatively affect our revenues, financial results and cash flows.
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Moreover, despite our position as the largest flat-rolled steel producer in North America, competition for automotive business has intensified in recent years, as steel producers and companies producing alternative materials have focused their efforts on capturing and/or expanding their market share of automotive business because of less favorable conditions in other markets for steel and other metals, including commodity products. As a result, the potential exists that we may lose market share to existing or new entrants or that automotive manufacturers will take advantage of the intense competition among potential suppliers during periodic contract renewal negotiations to pressure our pricing and margins in order to maintain or expand our market share with them, which could negatively affect our revenues, financial results and cash flows.
Global steelmaking overcapacity, steel imports and oversupply of iron ore could lead to lower or more volatile global steel and iron ore prices, directly or indirectly impacting our profitability.
Significant existing global steel capacity and new or expanded production capacity in recent years could potentially cause capacity to exceed demand globally. Although certain of our U.S. competitors have shut down production capacity, certain of our competitors have announced and are moving ahead with plans to develop new steelmaking capacity in the near term. In addition, certain foreign competitors, which may have cost advantages due to being owned, controlled or subsidized by foreign governments, have substantially increased their steel production capacity in the last few years and in some instances appear to have targeted the U.S. market for imports. The risk of even greater levels of imports may continue, depending upon foreign market and economic conditions, changes in trade agreements and treaties, laws, regulations or government policies affecting trade, the ability of foreign producers to circumvent U.S. trade sanctions and policy (including in the markets for tin mill products and electrical steels), the value of the U.S. dollar relative to other currencies and other variables beyond our control. In addition, higher sustained market prices of steel and iron ore products could cause new producers to enter the market or existing producers to further expand productive capacity, which could in turn lead to lower steel prices and increasing prices of steelmaking inputs, such as scrap metal. Excess steel and iron ore supply combined with reduced global steel demand and increased imports could also lead to lower steel and iron ore prices. Downward pressure on steel and/or iron ore prices could have an adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and profitability.
Severe financial hardship or bankruptcy of one or more of our major customers or key vendors could adversely affect our business operations and financial performance.
Sales and operations for a majority of our customers are sensitive to general economic conditions in the North American automotive, housing, construction, appliance, energy, defense and other industries. Some of our customers are highly leveraged. If there is a significant weakening of current economic conditions, whether because of operational, cyclical, supply chain or other issues, including inflationary pressures, higher interest rates or an infectious disease outbreak, it could cause customers to reduce, delay or cancel their orders with us, impact significantly the creditworthiness of our customers, and lead to other financial difficulties or even bankruptcy filings by our customers. Failure to receive payment from our customers for products that we have delivered could adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity. The concentration of customers in a specific industry, such as the automotive industry, may increase our risk because of the likelihood that circumstances may affect multiple customers at the same time. Such events could cause us to experience lost sales or losses associated with the potential inability to collect all outstanding accounts receivable as well as reduced liquidity. Similarly, if our key vendors face financial hardship or need to operate in bankruptcy, as we experienced with one of our major steel mill slag services providers during 2022-2023, such vendors could suffer operational disruption or even face liquidation, which could result in such vendor defaulting on its obligations to us or in our inability to secure replacement materials or services on a timely basis, or at all, or cause us to incur increased costs to do so. Such events could adversely impact our continuity of operations, financial results and cash flows.
II. REGULATORY RISKS
U.S. government actions on trade agreements and treaties, laws, regulations, or policies affecting trade could lead to lower or more volatile global steel prices, impacting our profitability.
In recent years, the U.S. government has altered its approach to international trade policy, both generally and with respect to matters directly and indirectly affecting the steel industry, including by undertaking certain unilateral actions affecting trade, renegotiating existing bilateral or multilateral trade agreements, and entering into new agreements or treaties with foreign countries. For example, in March 2018, the U.S. government issued a proclamation pursuant to Section 232 imposing a 25% tariff on imported steel. These Section 232 tariffs were imposed on national security grounds and addressed imported steel that was being unfairly traded by certain foreign competitors at artificially low prices. In retaliation against the Section 232 tariffs, the European Union subsequently imposed its own tariffs against certain steel products and other goods imported from the U.S. Following the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, negotiations between the U.S. government and other governments have resulted in revisions to these measures. For example, the U.S. government agreed to modified tariff rate quota systems with each of the European Union, Japan and the United Kingdom that allow more imports from those trading partners to enter the U.S. market free of Section 232 tariffs. The U.S. government may also negotiate reductions or eliminations of Section 232 duties with other trading partners. If the Section 232 measures are further removed or substantially lessened, whether through legal challenge, legislation, executive action or otherwise, imports of foreign steel would likely increase and steel prices in the U.S. would likely fall, which could materially adversely affect our revenues, financial results and cash flows.
In addition, during 2020, the USMCA was implemented among the U.S., Mexico and Canada in place of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Because all of our steel manufacturing facilities are located in North America and one of our principal markets is automotive manufacturing in North America, we believe that the USMCA has the potential to positively impact our business by incentivizing automakers and other manufacturers to increase manufacturing production in North America and to use North
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American steel. However, it is difficult to predict the short- and long-term implications of changes in trade policy and, therefore, whether the USMCA or other new or renegotiated trade agreements, treaties, laws, regulations or policies that may be implemented by the U.S. government, or otherwise, will have a beneficial or detrimental impact on our business and our customers’ and suppliers’ businesses. Adverse effects could occur directly from a disruption to trade and commercial transactions and/or indirectly by adversely affecting the U.S. economy or certain sectors of the economy, impacting demand for our customers’ products and, in turn, negatively affecting demand for our products. Important links of the supply chain for some of our key customers, including automotive manufacturers, could be negatively impacted by the USMCA or other new or renegotiated trade agreements, treaties, laws, regulations or policies.
While we may currently benefit from certain antidumping and countervailing duty orders, any such relief is subject to periodic reviews and challenges, which can result in revocation or modification of the orders or reduction of the duties. During 2022 and 2023, the U.S. International Trade Commission reviewed and continued antidumping and countervailing duty orders covering imports from several major trading partners of some of our key products, including corrosion-resistant steel, cold-rolled steel, hot-rolled steel and cut-to-length plate. However, previously granted petitions for trade relief may not be successful or fully effective at preventing harm from dumped and subsidized imports. Any of these actions and their direct and indirect impacts could materially adversely affect our revenues, financial results and cash flows.
We are subject to extensive governmental regulation, which imposes potentially significant costs and liabilities on us. Future laws and regulations or the way they are interpreted and enforced could increase these costs and liabilities or limit our ability to produce our raw materials and 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 businesses or execute our strategies. This includes, among other things: changes in MSHA regulations, such as respirable silica standards and surface mobile equipment rules; reevaluation of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, such as revised nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, ozone and particulate matter criteria; changes in the interpretation of OSHA regulations, such as standards for occupational exposure to noise, certain chemicals or hazardous substances, infectious diseases and potentially hazardous machinery; and changes in tax laws and regulations, including the possible taxation under U.S. or foreign country laws of certain income from worldwide operations.
We and our operations are subject to various international, foreign, federal, state, provincial and local laws and regulations relating to protection of the environment and human health and safety, including those relating to air quality, water quality and conservation, plant, wetlands, natural resources and wildlife protection (including endangered or threatened species), reclamation, remediation and restoration of properties and related surety bonds or other financial assurances, land use, the discharge of materials into the environment, the effects that industrial operations and mining have on groundwater quality and availability, the management of electrical equipment containing polychlorinated biphenyls, and other related matters. Despite implementation of rigorous environmental protocols and management systems, we cannot be certain that we have been or will be at all times in complete compliance with all such laws and regulations. If we violate or fail to comply with these laws or regulations, we could be fined, required to cease operations, subject to criminal or civil liability, or otherwise sanctioned by regulators or barred from participating in government contracts. In addition, federal or state regulatory agencies have the authority to order a mine or production facility to be temporarily or permanently closed where imminent danger that could cause death or serious physical harm is perceived. Compliance with the complex and extensive laws and regulations to which we are subject imposes substantial costs on us, which could increase over time because of heightened regulatory oversight, adoption of more stringent environmental, health and safety standards and greater 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 us and our customers, which may also require us or our customers to reduce or otherwise change operations significantly or incur significant additional costs, potentially limiting our ability to produce our raw materials and products, depending on their ultimate outcome. These emerging or recently enacted rules, regulations and policy guidance include, but are not limited to: trade regulations, such as the USMCA and/or other trade agreements, treaties or policies; changes in tariff policy, including with respect to the 25% tariff on certain imported steel imposed under Section 232; climate change mitigation strategies and GHG regulation; selenium discharge regulation; revisions to the sulfate wild rice water quality standard and its implementation; Minnesota’s Mercury TMDL and associated federal rules governing mercury air emission reductions; the Regional Haze FIP Rule; ozone transport regulations; agency decisions related to environmental justice initiatives; revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards, particularly for ozone and particulate matter; revised National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants in the taconite, coke, and iron and steel sectors; and additional regulations regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. We similarly expect both federal and state governments to continue to propose more stringent environmental regulation, in particular related to climate change. Any new or more stringent legislation, regulations, rules, interpretations or orders, when enacted and enforced, including any related to required monitoring and reporting or reductions in, or taxes on, levels of carbon emissions, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition or profitability.
Our operations may be impacted by the recent enactment, and ongoing consideration, of significant federal and state laws and regulations relating to certain mine-related issues, such as the stability of tailings basins, mine drainage and fill activities, reclamation and safety in underground and surface mines. With respect to underground mines, for example, these laws and regulations include requirements for constructing and maintaining caches for the storage of additional self-contained self-rescuers throughout the mines; installing rescue chambers in the 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 additional safety training. Additionally, there are requirements for the prompt reporting
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of accidents and increased fines and penalties for violations of these and existing regulations. These laws and regulations may cause us to incur substantial additional costs.
In addition, certain of our operations are subject to the risks of doing business abroad and we must comply with complex foreign and U.S. laws and regulations, which may include, but are not limited to, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other anti-bribery laws, regulations related to import/export and trade controls, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and other U.S. and foreign privacy regulations, and transportation and logistics regulations. These laws and regulations may increase our costs of doing business in international jurisdictions and expose our operations and employees to elevated risk. We require our employees, contractors and agents to comply with these and all other applicable laws and regulations, but failure to do so could result in possible administrative, civil or criminal liability and reputational harm to us and our employees.
As a supplier on federal, state and local public procurement projects, including projects that may arise out of proposed or recently enacted governmental legislation regarding infrastructure investments such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, we may be subject to certain stringent procurement regulations that may present compliance challenges or may increase the costs of securing certain business. We may also be indirectly affected through regulatory changes that impact our customers, which in turn could reduce the quantity of our products they demand, adversely impact the terms upon which they purchase or the prices for our products they are willing to pay. Regulatory changes that impact our suppliers, such as any changes in labor or environmental standards in China, could decrease the availability of products or services they sell to us or could increase the price they demand for products or services they sell to us.
Our operations use hazardous materials and inadvertently may impact the environment, which could result in material liabilities to us.
Our operations currently use, and have in the past used, hazardous materials and substances, and we have generated, and expect to continue to generate, solid and hazardous waste. We have been, and may in the future be, subject to claims under international, foreign, federal, state, provincial 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 and reclamation of properties. Such claims for damages, as well as investigation, remediation and reclamation requirements, have arisen and may arise in the future out of current, future or former conditions at sites that we or our acquired companies own, lease or operate, as well as sites that we or our acquired companies formerly owned, leased or operated, and at contaminated sites that are or have been owned, leased or operated by our joint venture partners. We may also have liability for contamination at third-party sites where we have sent hazardous wastes. Our liability for these claims may be strict and/or joint and several, such that we may be held responsible for more than our share of the contamination or other damages, or even for entire claims regardless of fault. We may be named as a potentially responsible party at other third-party sites in the future, and we cannot be certain that the costs associated with these additional sites will not exceed any reserves we have established or otherwise be material.
We may be unable to obtain, maintain, renew or comply with permits and licenses necessary for our operations or be required to provide additional financial assurances, which could reduce our production, cash flows, profitability and available liquidity.
We must obtain, maintain and comply with numerous permits and licenses that require approval of operational plans and impose strict conditions on various environmental, health and safety matters in connection with our steel production and processing and mining and other operations. These include permits and approvals issued by various federal, state, provincial, foreign and local agencies and regulatory bodies, with which we may not always be able to comply. The permitting rules are complex and may change over time, making our ability to comply with the applicable requirements more difficult or potentially impractical and costly, possibly precluding the continuance of ongoing operations or the development of future operations. Interpretations of rules may also change over time and may lead to requirements, such as additional financial assurances, making it costlier to comply. Moreover, despite our ongoing efforts to reduce our environmental footprint and improve the resiliency of our business model, heightened levels of regulatory oversight focused on addressing climate change and industrial activities that generate GHG emissions, such as our steelmaking, cokemaking and mining operations, could impact, delay, or disrupt our ability to obtain new or renewed permits or modifications to existing permits.
In addition, the public, including special interest groups and individuals, have certain rights under various statutes and burgeoning environmental justice policies to comment upon, submit objections to, and otherwise engage in the permitting process, including bringing citizens’ lawsuits to challenge such permits or activities. For example, we have encountered and expect to continue to encounter public objections to permit renewal applications relating to certain of our major steelmaking facilities, including our Indiana Harbor Works. Due to these factors or for other reasons, required permits may not be issued or renewed in a timely fashion or at all, or permits issued or renewed may include conditions that we cannot meet or otherwise be conditioned in ways that may restrict our ability to conduct our production, mining and processing activities efficiently or include requirements for additional financial assurances that we may not be able to provide on commercially reasonable terms or at all, which could reduce available borrowing capacity under our ABL Facility. Such conditions, restrictions or requirements could also reduce our production, cash flows or profitability.
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III. FINANCIAL RISKS
Our existing and future indebtedness may limit cash flow available to invest in the ongoing needs of our businesses, which could prevent us from fulfilling our obligations under our senior notes, ABL Facility and other debt, and we may be forced to take other actions to satisfy our obligations under our debt, which may not be successful.
As of December 31, 2023, we had $3,192 million aggregate principal amount of long-term debt outstanding, $829 million of which was secured (excluding $56 million of outstanding letters of credit and $215 million of finance leases), and $198 million of cash on our statement of consolidated financial position. As of December 31, 2023, $3,192 million aggregate principal amount of our senior notes was outstanding. The aggregate principal amount of revolver commitments under our ABL Facility is $4.75 billion. As of December 31, 2023, we had no outstanding borrowings under our ABL Facility, and the principal amount of letters of credit obligations and other commitments totaled $56 million. As of December 31, 2023, borrowing availability under our ABL Facility was $4,341 million based on outstanding letters of credit obligations and our borrowing base at that time.
A portion of our cash flow from operations is used to service debt under our senior notes and ABL Facility, reducing the availability of cash to fund capital expenditures, acquisitions or strategic development initiatives, and other general corporate purposes or to return capital to shareholders, including via share repurchases. Although it is uncertain whether the U.S. Federal Reserve will lower, maintain or further raise interest rates during 2024 and beyond, higher rates would increase the amount of cash we would need to allocate to servicing the interest expense on our debt in the event we have an outstanding balance drawn under our ABL Facility.
Our ability to make scheduled payments on the principal, premium, if any, and interest on our debt, or to refinance our debt obligations, 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, as described elsewhere in this “Risk Factors” section. If we are unable to service our debt obligations, we could face substantial liquidity problems and we may be forced to reduce or delay investments, capital expenditures and share repurchases, or to sell assets, seek additional capital, including additional secured or unsecured debt, or restructure or refinance our debt, and we may be unable to continue as a going concern. We may be unable to consummate any proposed asset sales or recover the carrying value of these assets, and any proceeds may not be adequate to meet any debt service obligations then due. Any of these examples potentially could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations, profitability, shareholders’ equity and capital structure. In addition, a failure to comply with any applicable covenants in the instruments governing our debt could result in an event of default that, if not cured or waived, would have a material adverse effect on us.
Our level of indebtedness could have further consequences, including, but not limited to, increasing our vulnerability to adverse economic or industry conditions, placing us at a competitive disadvantage compared to other businesses in the industries in which we operate that are not as leveraged and that may be better positioned to withstand economic downturns and recessionary environments, limiting our flexibility to plan for, or react to, changes in our businesses and the industries in which we operate, and requiring us to refinance all or a portion of our existing debt. We may not be able to refinance on commercially reasonable terms or at all, and any refinancing of our debt could be at higher interest rates and may require us to comply with more onerous covenants, making it more difficult to obtain surety bonds, letters of credit or other financial assurances that may be demanded by our vendors or regulatory agencies, particularly during periods in which credit markets are weak. In addition, our cost of financing or refinancing, access to the capital markets, and the terms under which we purchase goods and services could be adversely affected if credit ratings agencies downgrade our ratings, whether due to factors specific to our business or debt profile, a prolonged cyclical downturn in the steel, scrap metal and mining industries or macroeconomic trends (such as global or regional recessions), increases in pension and OPEB obligations, adverse impacts of inflation and high interest rates, or trends in credit and capital markets more generally. A portion of our borrowing capacity and any outstanding indebtedness under our ABL Facility bears interest at a variable rate based on SOFR. To the extent these interest rates increase, our interest expense will increase. Restricted access to capital markets and/or increased borrowing costs could have an adverse effect on our results of operations, cash flows, financial condition and liquidity.
Our actual operating results may differ significantly from our guidance.
From time to time, we release guidance, including that set forth under “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations–Outlook” in our Annual Reports on Form 10-K and our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, regarding our future performance. This guidance, which consists of forward-looking statements, is prepared by our management and is qualified by, and subject to, the assumptions and the other information included in our Annual Reports on Form 10-K and our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q. Our guidance is not prepared with a view toward compliance with published guidelines of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and neither our independent registered public accounting firm nor any other independent or outside party compiles or examines the guidance and, accordingly, no such person expresses any opinion or any other form of assurance with respect thereto.
Guidance is based upon a number of assumptions and estimates that, while presented with numerical specificity, are inherently subject to business, economic, regulatory and competitive uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond our control and are based upon specific assumptions with respect to future business decisions, some of which will change. The principal reason that we release such data is to provide a basis for our management to discuss our business outlook with analysts and investors. We do not accept any responsibility for any projections or reports published by any such third parties.
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Guidance is necessarily speculative in nature, and it can be expected that some or all of the assumptions of the guidance furnished by us will not materialize or will vary significantly from actual results. Accordingly, our guidance is only an estimate of what management believes is realizable as of the date of release. Actual results will vary from the guidance. Investors should also recognize that the reliability of any forecasted financial data diminishes the further in the future that the data are forecast. Considering the foregoing, investors are urged to put the guidance in context and not to place undue reliance on it. Any failure to successfully implement our operating strategy or the occurrence of any of the risks described in our Annual Reports on Form 10-K or our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q could cause actual operating results to differ from the guidance, and such differences may be adverse and material.
We may be subject to various lawsuits, claims, arbitrations or governmental proceedings that could result in significant expenditures.
We are from time to time subject to various lawsuits, claims, arbitrations or governmental proceedings relating to commercial and business disputes, antitrust claims, environmental matters, government investigations, occupational or personal injury claims, property damage, labor and employment matters, or suits involving legacy operations and other matters. For example, certain of our subsidiaries have been named in lawsuits claiming exposure to asbestos, many of which have been dismissed and/or settled for non-material amounts. Nevertheless, it is likely that similar types of claims will continue to be filed in the future, and we could experience material adverse judgments or incur significant costs to defend such claims or any other existing and future lawsuits, claims, arbitrations or governmental proceedings. The insurance we maintain may not be adequate to protect us in the event of significant claims.
IV. OPERATIONAL RISKS
Our operating expenses could increase significantly if the prices of raw materials, electrical power, fuel or other energy sources increase.
Our operations require significant use of energy and raw materials. Although we are fully self-sufficient in iron ore and partially self-sufficient in coke, metallurgical coal and scrap metal, we are wholly or partially dependent on third-party suppliers for certain critical raw materials and production inputs, including industrial gases, graphite electrodes, chrome, zinc, coke, metallurgical coal, scrap metal and other alloys. Prices for electricity, natural gas, diesel fuel, oils and raw materials can fluctuate widely with availability and demand levels from other users, including fluctuations caused by the impact of recent inflationary pressures, supply chain constraints, infectious disease outbreaks and geopolitical conflicts. For example, increased electricity demand to the grid in response to physical climate-related risks, adverse or extreme weather events and electrification of the economy could adversely impact energy prices. During periods of peak usage, although some operations have contractual arrangements in place whereby they receive certain offsetting payments in exchange for electricity load reduction, supplies of energy and raw materials in general 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 adversely affect our operations. While we have some long-term contracts with electrical, natural gas and raw material suppliers, we are exposed to fluctuations in energy, natural gas and raw material costs that can affect our production costs. We enter into many market-based pricing supply contracts for electricity, 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 may impose rate increases and/or pass through additional capital and operating cost increases to their customers related to new or pending U.S. environmental regulations or other charges that may require significant capital investment and/or use of cleaner fuels in the future. Recent executive orders from President Biden regarding the environment and climate change, and the regulations providing for GHG emissions standards proposed by the EPA, indicate that new or revised regulations or other government actions could result in rate and/or cost increases from U.S. public utilities, which could significantly increase the costs of operating our mining and manufacturing facilities. Although we regularly monitor and from time to time challenge rate cases initiated by these utilities or other sources seeking to increase the amounts that our facilities must pay for electricity, natural gas or water, there is no assurance that our challenges will be successful in reducing or eliminating proposed rate and/or cost increases.
The majority of our steel shipments are sold under contracts that do not allow us to pass through all increases in raw materials, supplies and energy costs. Some of our customer contracts include variable-pricing or surcharge mechanisms allowing us to adjust the total sales price based on changes in specified raw materials, supplies and energy costs. Those adjustments, however, rarely reflect all of our underlying raw materials, supplies and energy cost changes. The scope of the adjustment may also be limited by the terms of the negotiated language, including limitations on when and to what extent the adjustment occurs. Further, as a result of recent inflationary pressures, many of our vendors have been seeking substantial price increases in order to continue providing critical goods and services, and to the extent we are required to pay relatively more for our steelmaking inputs and are unable to recognize corresponding sales price increases, we would realize lower margins on sales of our products, negatively impacting our results of operations. Our need to consume existing inventories may also delay the impact of a change in prices of raw materials or supplies. Significant changes in raw material costs may also increase the potential for inventory value write-downs in the event of a reduction in selling prices and our inability to realize the cost of the inventory. As we source a portion of our critical supplies, manufacturing equipment and raw materials from China, such as refractories, electrodes, chemicals and spare parts, existing tensions or further adverse geopolitical developments between the U.S. and China triggering or exacerbating sanctions or trading restrictions could lead to us experiencing disruptions, delays or higher costs in supplying our operations and maintaining steady-state production. In addition, even though we are partially self-sufficient in scrap metal, if the market price of scrap metal were to experience a sustained price increase, our cost to produce steel would be adversely affected due to the higher
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prices we would need to pay to acquire third-party scrap metal for consumption in our operations, which would adversely affect the margins we would realize on our fixed price contracts.
Our sales and competitive position depend on transporting our products to customers at competitive rates and in a timely manner, and our ability to optimize our operational footprint depends on predictably and cost effectively moving products and raw materials internally among our facilities.
Disruption of the rail, trucking, lake and other waterway 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, driver shortages and other disruptions in the trucking industry, train crew shortages or other rail network constraints, infectious disease outbreaks or other events and lack of alternative transportation options could impair our ability to move products internally among our facilities and to supply products to our customers at competitive rates or in a timely manner and, thus, could adversely affect our operations, revenues, margins and profitability. For example, if the vessel shipping season on the Great Lakes were to be interrupted or shortened as compared to historical levels, whether due to extended winter conditions, operational failure of critical shipping locks or otherwise, our ability to transport iron ore pellets to our steel mills could be adversely affected, resulting in potential operational disruptions and reduced production volumes. Further, dredging issues and environmental changes, particularly at Great Lakes ports or along navigable rivers, could adversely impact our ability to move certain of our products or result in higher freight rates. Similarly, we depend on third-party transportation services for delivery of raw materials and other production inputs to us, and failures or delays in delivery would have an adverse effect on our ability to maintain steady-state production and processing operations to meet customer obligations.
The cost or time to implement a strategic or sustaining capital project may prove to be greater than originally anticipated.
Most of our mines and production and processing facilities have been in operation for several decades, and the equipment is aged, requiring that we continually and successfully implement extensive and costly maintenance practices, programs and upgrades, which may take longer or be more costly than expected. From time to time, we undertake capital projects to enhance, expand, maintain or upgrade our production, mining and processing capabilities, such as the 2022 blast furnace reline project at our Cleveland Works, or to diversify our customer base, such as our Toledo direct reduction plant. Our ability to achieve the anticipated production volumes, revenues or otherwise realize acceptable returns on 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, operational, permitting and labor-related factors. Further, the cost to implement any given capital project may prove to be greater or may take more time than originally anticipated, including due to supply chain issues that may be experienced by our vendors, and the scope of a capital project may expand or otherwise be modified. Capital projects may also interrupt production capabilities, which could have an adverse effect on costs and profitability. Inability to achieve the expected results from the implementation of our capital projects, incurring unanticipated costs or delays, or the inability to meet contractual obligations could adversely affect our results of operations, future earnings and cash flow generation.
Natural or human-caused disasters, weather conditions, disruption of energy, unanticipated geological conditions, equipment failures, infectious disease outbreaks, and other unexpected events may lead our customers, our suppliers or our facilities to curtail production or shut down operations.
Operating levels within our industry and the industries of our customers and suppliers are subject to unexpected conditions and events that are beyond the industries’ control. Those events, including the occurrence of an infectious disease, widespread illness or public health emergency, 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 products and adversely affect our revenues, margins and profitability. For example, the temporary production shutdowns in the automotive industry that occurred during 2020 due to the onset of the COVID‑19 pandemic and associated reduction in demand for our products led to our decision to temporarily idle certain steelmaking facilities and iron ore mines.
Our operating levels are subject to conditions beyond our control that can delay deliveries or increase the cost of production for varying lengths of time. Factors that could cause production disruptions could include adverse weather conditions due to climate change or otherwise (such as severe winter weather, tornadoes, floods, temperature extremes and the lack of availability of process water due to drought) and natural and human-caused disasters, lack of adequate raw materials, energy or other supplies, and infectious disease outbreaks. Additional factors that could adversely impact production and operations at our mining facilities include tailings dam failures, pit wall failures, unanticipated geological conditions, including variations in the amount of rock and soil overlying deposits of iron ore and metallurgical coal, and processing changes.
Our mining operations, processing facilities, steelmaking and logistics operations depend on critical pieces of equipment. This equipment may, on occasion, be out of service because of unanticipated failures or unplanned outages. In the future, we may experience additional lengthy shutdowns or periods of reduced production because of equipment failures or unplanned maintenance activities. Further, remediation of any interruption in production capability may require us to make large capital expenditures that could have a negative impact on our profitability and cash flows. Our business interruption insurance may not be available to cover lost revenues associated with equipment failures or maintenance difficulties. Longer-term business disruptions could result in a loss of customers, which could adversely affect our future sales levels and revenues.
Many of our production facilities and mines are dependent on a sole source for electric power, natural gas, water, industrial gases and/or certain other raw materials or supplies. A significant interruption in service from our suppliers due to production or transportation issues, workforce difficulties, terrorism or sabotage, weather conditions such as heat waves that may be attributable
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to climate change, natural disasters, equipment failure or any other cause could result in substantial losses that may not be fully recoverable, either from our business interruption insurance or responsible third parties.
A disruption in or failure of our IT systems, including those related to cybersecurity, could adversely affect our business operations, reputation and financial performance.
We rely on the accuracy, capacity, integrity and security of our IT systems for the operation of many of our business processes and to comply with regulatory, legal and tax requirements. While we maintain some of our critical IT systems, we are also dependent on third parties to provide important IT services relating to, among other things, off-site content hosting, operational process technology at our facilities, human resources, electronic communications and certain finance functions. Further, in connection with our recent acquisitions, we inherited certain legacy hardware and software IT systems that can be supported only by a very limited number of specialists in the market, and our increased reliance on these legacy IT systems may increase the risk of IT system disruption or failure, which could adversely affect our operations.
Despite the security measures that we have implemented, including those related to cybersecurity and data privacy, our IT systems could be breached or damaged by computer viruses, ransomware, natural or human-caused incidents or disasters, or unauthorized physical or electronic access or intrusions, any of which could result in the loss, theft or corruption of sensitive or essential business or personal information and the inability to access or control our IT systems or information. Given our status as a critical supplier of steel to U.S. business and defense interests and the U.S. government’s broad support of Ukraine in defending against Russia’s invasion, we may be the target of malicious cyber activities sponsored by the Russian or Chinese governments or other state actors like those described in recent threat advisories issued by the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. Though we have controls in place and regularly conduct employee training, we cannot provide assurance that a cyberattack will not occur or cause damage or business interruption. Furthermore, despite our efforts to audit certain critical vendors’ information security controls, significant risk may remain with respect to security measures employed by third-party service providers, which may ultimately prove to be ineffective at countering threats.
Failures of our IT systems, whether caused maliciously or inadvertently, may result in the disruption of our business processes, or in the unauthorized release of sensitive, confidential, personally identifiable or otherwise protected information, or result in the corruption of data, each of which could adversely affect our businesses. For example, cybersecurity vulnerabilities could result in an interruption of the functionality of our automated manufacturing, operating, or health and safety systems, which, if compromised, could cease, threaten, delay or slow down our ability to produce or process steel or any of our other products for the duration of such interruption or lead to unanticipated health or safety incidents, which could result in reputational harm and may adversely affect our employees, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows. In addition, any compromise of the security of our IT systems could result in a loss of confidence in our security measures and subject us to litigation, regulatory investigations and negative publicity that could adversely affect our reputation and financial condition. Our customers, suppliers and vendors may also access or store certain of our sensitive information on their IT systems, which, if breached, attacked or accessed by unauthorized persons, could likewise expose our sensitive information and adversely impact our businesses. Furthermore, as cybersecurity threats continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, including through the use of artificial intelligence, we may be required to incur significant costs and invest additional resources to protect against and, if required, remediate the damage caused by such disruptions or system failures in the future. The amount of insurance coverage we maintain and require our vendors to maintain may be inadequate to cover claims or liabilities resulting from cybersecurity attacks.
The closure of an operating facility or mine entails substantial costs. If our assumptions underlying our accruals for closure costs prove to be inaccurate or we prematurely close one or more of our facilities or mines, our results of operations and financial condition would likely be adversely affected.
If faced with overcapacity in the market, regulatory challenges or other adverse conditions, we may seek to rationalize manufacturing and production assets through sales, temporary shutdowns, indefinite idles or facility closures. If we indefinitely idle or permanently close any of our facilities or mines, our production and revenues would be reduced unless we were able to increase production at our other facilities or mines in an offsetting amount, which may not be possible, and could result in customers responding negatively by taking current or future business away from us if we seek to transition production to a different facility. Alternatively, we could fail to meet customer specifications at the facilities to which products are transitioned, resulting in customer dissatisfaction or claims. To the extent an idled or closed facility formerly supplied critical inputs to our upstream production facilities, we may need to secure alternate sources for such critical inputs, the cost and availability of which may be uncertain.
The closure of a steelmaking or other operating facility or mining operation involves significant closure costs, including reclamation and other environmental costs, the costs of terminating long-term obligations, including customer, energy and transportation contracts and equipment and real property leases, costs associated with the altered tax profile of an idled or closed facility, and certain accounting charges, including asset impairment and accelerated depreciation. In addition, a permanent facility or mine closure could accelerate and significantly increase employment legacy costs, including our expense and funding costs for pension and OPEB obligations and multiemployer pension withdrawal liabilities. For example, a number of employees would be eligible for immediate retirement under special eligibility rules that apply upon a steelmaking facility or mine closure. The employees eligible for immediate retirement under the pension plans at the time of the permanent closure also could be eligible for OPEB, thereby accelerating our obligation to provide these benefits. Certain closures would precipitate a pension closure liability significantly greater than an ongoing operation liability and may trigger certain severance liability obligations. In addition, we are party to several joint ventures relating to iron ore mining, downstream steel processing and scrap metal recycling, and if our joint venture partners experience financial hardships or fail to perform their obligations upon closure, we may be required to assume significant
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additional obligations on behalf of the joint venture, including costs of environmental remediation and pension and OPEB obligations.
Although we base our assumptions regarding the life of our mines on detailed studies we perform from time to time, which are reviewed and validated by QPs, those studies and assumptions are subject to uncertainties and estimates that may not be accurate. We recognize the costs of reclaiming open pits, stockpiles, tailings ponds, roads and other mining support areas based on the estimated mining life of our properties. If our assumptions underlying our accruals for closure costs, including reclamation and other environmental costs, prove to be inaccurate or insufficient, or our liability in any particular year is greater than currently anticipated, our results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected. In addition, 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 adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
We incur certain costs when production capacity is idled, as well as increased costs to resume production at previously idled facilities.
Our decisions concerning which facilities to operate and at what production levels are made based in part upon our customers’ orders for products, as well as the quality, performance capabilities and cost of our operations. During depressed market conditions, we may concentrate production at certain facilities and not operate others in response to customer demand or other reasons, and as a result we may incur idle costs that could offset our anticipated savings from not operating the idled facility. For example, due to increased scrap usage and less demand for iron ore pellets in our steelmaking operations, our Northshore mining and pelletizing facility was temporarily idled during portions of 2022 and 2023, and we incurred certain fixed costs at that facility during the idle periods. We cannot predict whether our operations will experience additional similar or dissimilar disruptions in the future. When we restart idled facilities, we incur certain costs to replenish inventories, prepare the previously idled facilities for operation, perform the required repair and maintenance activities, and prepare employees to return to work safely and resume production responsibilities. The amount of any such costs could be significant, depending on a variety of factors, such as the period of idle time, necessary repairs and available employees, and is difficult to project.
We may not have adequate insurance coverage for some business risks.
Our operations are generally subject to a number of hazards and risks that could result in personal injury or damage to, or destruction of, equipment, properties or facilities. Depending on the nature and extent of a loss, the insurance that we maintain to address risks that are typical in our businesses may not be adequate or available to fully protect or reimburse us, or our insurance coverage may be limited, canceled or otherwise terminated. Insurance against some risks, such as liabilities for environmental pollution, tailings basin breaches, or certain hazards or interruption of certain business activities, may not be available at an economically reasonable cost, or at all. Even if available, we may self-insure or maintain high deductibles where we determine it is most cost effective to do so. As a result, despite the insurance coverage that we carry, accidents or other negative developments involving our production, mining, processing or transportation activities causing losses in excess of policy limits, or losses arising from events not covered under insurance policies or subject to substantial deductibles, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and cash flows. In addition, the potential increase in extreme weather events due to climate change or otherwise may adversely impact our access to cost effective insurance in the future. The risk of increased insurance costs may have greater impact where the adverse event results in us asserting an insurance claim, the cost of which our insurers may seek to recoup during a future insurance renewal through increased premiums or limitations on coverage.
V. SUSTAINABILITY AND DEVELOPMENT RISKS
As we and our customers, competitors and investors seek reduced carbon footprints, transition toward carbon neutrality and enhance business sustainability, we face increased financial, regulatory, legal and reputational risks and potential loss of business opportunities because our operations utilize carbon-based energy sources and produce GHG emissions.
As described in detail in Part I - Item 1. Business - Environmental Matters - Regulatory Developments - Climate Change and GHG Regulations above, because our operations use carbon-based energy and produce GHG emissions, we are subject to a number of risks relating to decarbonization initiatives being undertaken by regulators and other stakeholders as part of global efforts to address the potential impacts of climate change. For example, as part of climate change mitigation strategies, federal, state, local or foreign governmental authorities may introduce mandatory carbon pricing obligations, carbon emissions limitations, carbon taxes or carbon trading mechanisms, any of which could impose significant costs on our operations, including causing us to incur higher energy and supplier costs, invest in costly and potentially unproven emissions control or reduction technologies, and engage in more intensive environmental monitoring and reporting efforts. In addition, complying with current or future international treaties and federal, state, local or foreign laws or regulations concerning climate change and GHG emissions could negatively impact our ability, and that of our customers and suppliers, to compete with companies located in areas not subject to or not complying with such constraints. We may also face more limited access to, or increased costs of, capital to the extent financial institutions and investors increase expectations relating to lowering GHG emissions or reduce investments in carbon-intensive businesses or industries. Further, increased pressure from customers or other business partners seeking to reduce their indirect carbon footprints and achieve certain overall decarbonization targets, including by sourcing a larger percentage of steel products from recycled steel, could result in the potential loss of business opportunities if we are unable to meet their carbon, GHG emissions or sustainability expectations, or if we are perceived to have higher GHG intensity than our competition.
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In addition, as part of our decarbonization strategy, we are investigating and from time to time may consider investments in or other relationships with various renewable and clean energy initiatives. For example, we engaged in various discussions with other companies, universities and national research laboratories to leverage funding available under the DOE's Regional Clean Hydrogen Hubs Funding Opportunity Announcement to develop and implement clean hydrogen solutions for our industrial applications. The DOE awarded funding to seven hydrogen hubs, and we have expressed interest in offtaking hydrogen from two of them and have recently commissioned a pipeline and completed a hydrogen injection trial at our Indiana Harbor blast furnace #7 with the aim of enabling us to utilize clean hydrogen once it becomes commercially available. We continue to engage with renewable energy developers on clean energy projects, including the previously announced 200-megawatt Headwaters III Wind Farm being proposed for construction in Indiana as well as onsite solar applications. While we are pursuing these decarbonization and energy-related projects with the aim of contributing to a greener power grid and lowering our GHG emissions in alignment with our targets, there are no guarantees that sufficient funding or the necessary advanced technology will be available to complete any of these projects under currently anticipated timeframes or at all, and we may experience delays and higher-than-anticipated costs to install the necessary infrastructure to implement such renewable and clean energy initiatives. In addition, we may not be successful in achieving our current or any future short, medium or long-term GHG emissions reduction goals, including any net-zero or near-zero goals, due to adverse changes in business conditions over time, unanticipated financial challenges, operational improvement efforts like carbon capture, utilization and sequestration projects at certain of our facilities that may not be as successful as originally forecasted, or regulatory developments arising after such goals were initially announced.
To maintain consistent operational performance and foster growth in our businesses, we must maintain our social license to operate with our stakeholders.
Maintaining a strong reputation and consistent operational, environmental and safety track records is vital to continuing to foster business growth and maintaining our permission to operate. As stakeholders’ sustainability expectations increase and regulatory requirements continue to evolve, maintaining our social license to operate becomes increasingly important. Our ability to maintain our reputation and strong operating track record could be threatened, including by challenges relating to the integration of our recent acquisitions or by circumstances outside of our control, such as disasters caused or suffered by other companies in the steel and mining industries. Our social license to operate could also be adversely affected and claims have been and could continue to be made against us to the extent that environmental factors negatively impact local communities, such as air emissions, discharges to water, dust, odors, noise and other factors that are inherent in industrial activities like our steelmaking, cokemaking, scrap metal processing and mining operations, even if such activities are conducted in accordance with legal, regulatory and permit requirements. 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 or third-party claims initiated in response to our ongoing activities could adversely affect our continuity of operations, current and prospective business relationships, and ability to foster growth projects.
We rely on estimates of our recoverable mineral reserves, which are complex due to geological characteristics of the properties and the number of assumptions made.
We regularly evaluate, and engage third-party QPs to review and validate, our mineral reserves based on revenues and costs and update them as required in accordance with SEC regulations. Estimates of mineral reserves and future net cash flows necessarily depend upon a number of variable factors and assumptions, some of which are beyond our control, such as production capacity, effects of governmental regulations, future prices for minerals we mine, future industry conditions and operating costs, severance and excise taxes, development costs, and costs of extraction and reclamation. Estimating the quantity and grade of mineral reserves requires us to determine the size, shape and depth of our mineralized bodies by analyzing geological data, such as samplings of drill holes, and a QP to review and validate our determinations. Estimated mineral reserves could be affected by future industry conditions, future changes in the SEC’s mining property disclosure requirements, variation in geological conditions and ongoing mine planning. Actual volume and grade of reserves recovered, production rates, revenues on third-party sales and expenditures with respect to our reserves will likely vary from estimates, and if such variances are material, our sales and gross margins could be adversely affected.
Defects in title or loss of any access rights or leasehold interests in our mining properties could limit our ability to mine these properties or result in significant unanticipated costs.
Many of our mining operations are conducted on properties we lease, license or as to which we have easements or other possessory interests. We generally do not maintain title insurance on our mining properties, and certain of our land access arrangements were negotiated many years ago and have not been updated. Any title defect, inability to negotiate future access rights required by our mine plans, or the loss of any lease, license, easement or other possessory interest for any mining property could adversely affect our ability to mine any 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, public facilities or other mining activities, may result in disputes and affect our ability to operate as planned if our title is not superior or mutually acceptable arrangements cannot be negotiated. Any challenge to or inability to establish our title or access could delay the exploration and development of some reserves, resources, 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 properties. In the event we lose reserves, resources, deposits or surface rights, we may be required to shut down or significantly alter impacted mining operations, thereby affecting future production, internal supply patterns and margins, revenues and cash flows.
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VI. HUMAN CAPITAL RISKS
We depend on our senior management team and other key employees, and the loss of these employees could adversely affect our businesses.
Our success depends in part on our ability to attract, retain, develop and motivate our senior management and key employees. Achieving this objective may be difficult due to a variety of factors, including fluctuations in 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, develop and motivate our senior management and key personnel to maintain our businesses 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.
Our profitability could be adversely affected if we fail to maintain satisfactory labor relations.
Our production is dependent upon the efforts of our employees. We are party to labor agreements with various labor unions that represent employees at most of 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 that could affect us adversely. While we successfully negotiated all three of our labor agreements that expired in 2023 and a new labor agreement at our Northshore operation, we have several other labor agreements that will expire in 2024, including those covering union workers at our Dearborn, Rockport and Toledo operations, and the outcomes of those labor negotiations are uncertain. 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 or continuity of production may be materially and adversely affected.
Our expenditures for pension and OPEB obligations could be materially higher than we have predicted if our underlying assumptions differ from actual outcomes, there are regulatory changes or the funded status of the multiemployer plans that we participate in degrade.
We provide retiree benefits through defined benefit pension and OPEB plans to certain eligible employees and retirees. Certain defined benefit pension plans are underfunded and may be subject to minimum cash contributions required by ERISA. Certain OPEB plans have funding requirements that are set under our collective bargaining agreements. Our funding obligations can significantly increase if plan assets underperform, the interest rates used to calculate minimum funding levels decrease, there are changes in laws and regulations affecting funding requirements or if there are increases to the benefit obligations. The calculation of the benefit obligation is based on several assumptions, including discount rates, healthcare trend rates, benefit levels pursuant to collective bargaining, mortality and other demographic assumptions. We have seen significant changes in retiree healthcare costs in recent years, which can be affected by changes in laws and regulations. If our assumptions do not materialize as expected and we make adverse changes to these assumptions, our earnings and cash flows could be unfavorably impacted.
We also contribute to certain multiemployer pension plans, including the Steelworkers’ Pension Trust, for which we are one of the largest contributing employers. Contribution amounts are determined during collective bargaining with our unions and could increase during future collective bargaining negotiations. Our obligations to these multiemployer plans could also increase if the funded status were to decline, which could be due to poor plan asset performance or if other contributors do not meet their obligations. If a multiemployer plan were to terminate or if we choose to withdraw, we could be subject to a liability based on the plan's underfunded status.
In addition, some of the transactions in which we previously sold or otherwise disposed of our non-core assets included provisions transferring certain pension and other liabilities to the purchasers or acquirers of those assets. While we believe that all such transfers were completed properly and are legally binding, if the purchaser fails to fulfill its obligations, we may be at risk that a court, arbitrator or regulatory body could disagree and determine that we remain responsible for pension and other liabilities that we intended to and did transfer.
We may encounter labor shortages for critical operational positions, which could adversely affect our ability to produce our products.
We are predicting a long-term shortage of skilled workers in heavy industry, such as electricians, and in certain highly specialized IT roles, and competition for available workers limits our ability to attract and retain employees as well as engage third-party contractors. We may face potential labor shortages, as many of our most specialized and skilled roles are held by our more senior, experienced employees. As we lose these employees through attrition or otherwise, we may lose these workers’ specialized institutional knowledge of our legacy businesses and systems, and we may have difficulty replacing them at competitive wages or at all.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
We have no unresolved comments from the SEC.
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ITEM 1C. CYBERSECURITY
Management of cybersecurity risks is an integral part of our overall risk management framework and is essential for safeguarding our business and data. We have developed an information security program to assess, identify and manage material risks from cybersecurity threats. The program includes policies and procedures that identify how security measures and controls drawn from multiple security frameworks are developed, implemented and maintained. Our cybersecurity risk management program works to balance critical infrastructure, network, application, cloud and information security objectives with overall business objectives and risk tolerance. Specific controls that are used include endpoint threat detection and response, identity and access management, privileged access management, logging and monitoring involving the use of security information and event management, multi-factor authentication, firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention, and vulnerability and patch management.
We use threat intelligence to inform our defensive measures. We use external and internal threat intelligence sources, including information from industry vendors and government agencies. Evolving threats and risks we are also monitoring and working to protect against include artificial intelligence, ransomware and nation-state attacks.
We believe in continuous improvement as part of the effort to optimize security, and we work to foster that culture through various initiatives:
Cybersecurity Awareness Trainings: We educate employees on best practices for online safety and for identifying potential cybersecurity threats, including by initiating quarterly training programs for our non-represented salaried workforce.
Simulated Cyberattacks: With assistance from qualified third-party experts, we periodically conduct penetration testing and tabletop exercises to test our technical controls and incident response plans.
Security Monitoring: We monitor our information technology environment with both our internal cybersecurity resources and third-party service providers. We also have processes in place to monitor the cybersecurity practices of various third-party service providers, including certain vendors that have access to our information systems or sensitive data.
Proactive Reporting and Investigation: As part of our training initiatives, we regularly educate employees on how to report any suspicious cyber activity or potential cybersecurity issues, and we investigate reported concerns.
Third-party security firms are used in different capacities to provide or operate some of these programs, controls and technology systems, including cloud-based platforms and services.
Our Board of Directors has overall oversight responsibility for our enterprise risk management program and delegates cybersecurity risk management oversight to the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors. The Audit Committee is responsible for ensuring that management has processes in place designed to identify and evaluate cybersecurity risks to which the Company is exposed and implement processes and programs to manage cybersecurity risks and mitigate cybersecurity incidents. Management, including the Chief Information Officer with support from our cybersecurity team, updates the Audit Committee on at least a biannual basis regarding our cybersecurity programs and material cybersecurity risks and mitigation strategies. The Audit Committee also regularly reports on discussions regarding cybersecurity risks to our full Board of Directors. Management is responsible for identifying, considering and assessing material cybersecurity risks on an ongoing basis, establishing processes to ensure that such potential cybersecurity risk exposures are monitored, putting in place appropriate mitigation measures and maintaining cybersecurity programs. Our cybersecurity programs are under the direction of our Chief Information Officer, who receives reports from our cybersecurity team and monitors the prevention, detection, mitigation and remediation of cybersecurity incidents. Our cybersecurity team includes personnel that have obtained credentials from the International System Security Certification Consortium and the SANS Institute, such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and GIAC Certified Incident Handler, as well as experienced information systems security professionals and information security managers. Additionally, our internal Information Security Committee, composed of leaders from key departments, collaborates on a cross-functional basis to identify practices that can counter threats and to monitor our cybersecurity programs and our cybersecurity incident response plans.
We recognize the ever-present global risk of cyberattacks from diverse threat actors, including nation-states, cybercriminals, hacktivists, insiders and organized crime. In spite of our efforts, we (or third parties we rely on) may not be able to fully, continuously and effectively implement security controls as intended. As described above, we utilize a risk-based approach and judgment to determine the security controls to implement, but it is possible we may not implement appropriate controls if we do not recognize or we underestimate a particular risk. In addition, security controls, no matter how well designed or implemented, may only mitigate and not fully eliminate risks. Further, even events that are detected by security tools or third parties may not always be immediately understood or acted upon. While no organization is immune to attack attempts and we cannot eliminate all risks from cybersecurity threats or provide assurance that we have not experienced an undetected cybersecurity incident, in 2023 we did not identify any material cybersecurity events that have materially affected or are reasonably likely to materially affect our business strategy, results of operations or financial condition. For more information about these risks, please see Part I - Item 1A. Risk Factors - IV. Operational Risks - A disruption in or failure of our IT systems, including those related to cybersecurity, could adversely affect our business operations, reputation and financial performance.
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ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
The following map shows the locations of our operations and corporate headquarters as of December 31, 2023:
300dpi Map.jpgCORPORATE OFFICES
We lease our corporate headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio. We also have leased office space in West Chester, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; and Detroit, Michigan. We own office space located in Burns Harbor, Indiana and our Research and Innovation Center located in Middletown, Ohio.
STEELMAKING
LocationRaw Material
(Tons in millions)StateIron OreCapacity (lt)HBICapacity (mt)CokeCapacity (nt)CoalCapacity (nt)ScrapCapacity (mt)
Hibbing TaconiteMNl7.0
MinorcaMNl3.0
NorthshoreMNl5.0
TildenMIl7.0
United TaconiteMNl6.0
Toledo HBIOHl1.9
Burns Harbor (Coke)INl1.8
MonessenPAl0.3
WarrenOHl0.5
PrincetonWVl1.8
FPTMultiplelN/A
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LocationRaw SteelProcessing and Finishing
(Tons in millions)StateBF-BOFEAFConfigured Capacity (nt)Hot-RolledCold-RolledCoatedStainless & ElectricalPlateSlab & Other
Burns HarborIN
l
5.0
l
l
l
l
Burns Harbor PlateINl
ButlerPA
l
0.4l
Cleveland WorksOH
l
3.4
l
lll
CoatesvillePA
l
0.2ll
ColumbusOHl
ConshohockenPAl
CoshoctonOHl
Dearborn WorksMI
l
3.0lll
Gary PlateINl
Indiana Harbor WorksIN
l
4.0
l
lll
Mansfield WorksOH
l
0.5l
Middletown WorksOH
l
3.0
l
llll
PiedmontNCl
RiverdaleIL
l
0.7
l
Rockport WorksINlll
SteeltonPA
l
0.3l
Tek & KoteINll
WeirtonWVll
ZanesvilleOHl
STEELMAKING AND FINISHING FACILITIES
Our primary steel producing and finishing facilities are located across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. We operate seven blast furnaces and five EAFs on nine properties. Finishing is completed on site at our integrated operations or at one of our 10 stand-alone processing and finishing facilities. In the aggregate, we have annual configured production capacity of approximately 20.5 million net tons of raw steel. During the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, our steelmaking facilities produced a total of 19.0 million and 16.8 million net tons of raw steel, respectively.
SCRAP PROCESSING FACILITIES
Our scrap business consists of our subsidiary FPT, which has 22 locations in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, Florida and Ontario. These facilities are primarily located in Michigan and Ohio, which are in close proximity to our scrap consuming steel facilities. During the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, FPT processed approximately 3 million net tons of scrap metal, of which approximately 50% of total output was prime grade.
DIRECT REDUCTION PLANT
Our direct reduction plant is located in Toledo, Ohio, is near an existing dock, and has access to rail and heavy haul roads for operation logistics. We are leasing the property on which the plant is located. This plant produces a specialized high quality iron alternative to scrap and pig iron and has annual capacity of 1.9 million metric tons of HBI. During the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, our direct reduction plant produced a total of 1.7 million and 1.6 million metric tons of HBI, respectively.
IRON ORE MINES AND PELLET PLANTS
The following information concerning our mining properties has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of subpart 1300 of Regulation S-K, which first became applicable to us for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021. These requirements differ significantly from the previously applicable disclosure requirements of SEC Industry Guide 7. Among other differences, subpart 1300 of Regulation S-K requires us to disclose our mineral resources, in addition to our mineral reserves, as of the end of our most recently completed fiscal year both in the aggregate and for each of our individually material mining properties.
As used in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, the terms “mineral resource,” “measured mineral resource,” “indicated mineral resource,” “inferred mineral resource,” “mineral reserve,” “proven mineral reserve,” and “probable mineral reserve” are defined and used in accordance with subpart 1300 of Regulation S-K. Under subpart 1300 of Regulation S-K, mineral resources may not be classified as “mineral reserves” unless the determination has been made by a QP that the mineral resources can be the basis of an economically viable project. Investors are specifically cautioned not to assume that any part or all of the mineral deposits (including any mineral resources) in these categories will ever be converted into mineral reserves, as defined by the SEC.
Investors are cautioned that, except for that portion of mineral resources classified as mineral reserves, mineral resources do not have demonstrated economic value. Estimates of inferred mineral resources have too high of a degree of uncertainty as to their existence and may not be converted to a mineral reserve. Therefore, investors are cautioned not to assume that all or any part of an inferred mineral resource exists, that it can be the basis of an economically viable project, or that it will ever be upgraded to a higher category. Likewise, investors are cautioned not to assume that all or any part of measured or indicated mineral resources will ever be converted to mineral reserves.
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See Part I – Item 1A. Risk Factors – V. Sustainability and Development Risks – We rely on estimates of our recoverable mineral reserves, which are complex due to geological characteristics of the properties and the number of assumptions made.
The information that follows relating to the Hibbing, Minorca, Northshore, Tilden and United Taconite iron ore mines is derived, for the most part, from, and in some instances is an extract from, the Technical Report Summaries relating to such properties prepared in compliance with Item 601(b)(96) and subpart 1300 of Regulation S-K. Portions of the following information are based on assumptions, qualifications and procedures that are not fully described herein. Reference should be made to the full text of the Technical Report Summaries, which are filed as Exhibits 96.1 through 96.5 to this Annual Report on Form 10-K and are incorporated by reference herein.
All of our iron ore mining operations are open-pit mines. Additional development is underway as required by long-range mine plans. Drilling programs are conducted periodically to collect geologic modeling data and for refining ongoing operations.
Geologic models are developed for all mines to define the major ore and waste rock types. Computerized block models for iron ore 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 LoM operating schedules.
We currently own or co-own and operate five production-stage iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota, as well as one indefinitely idled mine in Michigan. Following the AM USA Transaction, we now have an aggregate annual production capacity of approximately 28 million long tons of iron ore pellets, including our 85.3% share of the Hibbing mine production. Our 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.
The following represents iron ore production for the last three fiscal years:
Iron Ore Production
(In millions of long tons)202320222021
Hibbing1
6 
Minorca3 
Northshore2
3 
Tilden8 
United Taconite5 
Total25 20 27 
1Hibbing is reported at 85.3% based on our ownership level.
2In the second quarter of 2022, we temporarily idled our Northshore operations. The Northshore mine restarted production in the second quarter of 2023.
The following provides an overview of our iron ore properties:
All the infrastructure necessary to mine and process significant commercial quantities of iron ore is currently in place at all of our mine locations. Infrastructure items include high voltage electrical supplies, natural gas pipelines that connect to the North American distribution system, water sources, paved roads and highways, railroads for transporting crude ore and finished products, port facilities that connect to the Great Lakes, and accommodations for employees. Local and state infrastructure also includes hospitals, schools, airports, equipment suppliers, fuel suppliers, commercial laboratories and communication systems. Labor is readily available with major population centers within 25 miles of all of our properties.
All of our iron ore mining operations grant leases, licenses and easements for various purposes, including miscellaneous community land uses, utility infrastructure and other third-party uses, that encumber our properties but do not materially inhibit operations. Certain assets also serve as collateral securing obligations under our ABL Facility and our senior secured notes. We maintain the requisite state and federal permits and are in material compliance with all material permits.
HIBBING
Hibbing (85.3% owned) is located immediately north of the city of Hibbing, Minnesota in the center of Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. The mining and processing operation is located between latitude 47°25’48” N and 47°31’48” N and longitude 93°04’54” W and 92°54’36” W.
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Mining began in 1976 as a joint venture between Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Steel Company of Canada. Cliffs first became involved in the joint venture when it purchased Pickands Mather's 15% share in 1986. Prior to the AM USA Transaction, we owned 23% of Hibbing, ArcelorMittal USA had a 62.3% interest and U.S. Steel had a 14.7% interest. On December 9, 2020, as a result of the AM USA Transaction, we acquired an additional 62.3% ownership stake in the Hibbing mine and became the majority owner and mine manager.
Hibbing holds 30,670 acres of surface rights, of which 1,150 acres are associated with mineral leases. The majority of the mineral rights are leased. The property is comprised of 6,913 acres of mineral leases expiring between 2024 and 2056. Leases are maintained by making minimum prepaid royalty payments. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates.
The operation includes 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 (Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC) rail to a ship loading port at Superior, Wisconsin, operated by BNSF.
The net book value of our ownership of Hibbing's property, plant and equipment was $85 million as of December 31, 2023.
300dpi Hibbing.jpg
For more information, see Exhibit 96.1, the Technical Report Summary on the Hibbing Taconite Property, Minnesota, USA, prepared for the Company by the QP, SLR, with an effective date of December 31, 2021.
MINORCA
Minorca (100% owned) is located in the center of Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. The Laurentian Pit is located near the City of Gilbert, Minnesota at latitude 47°30'0"N and longitude 92°26’30"W, East 1 Pit is located at latitude 47°31'30"N and longitude 92°23’30"W, and East 2 Pit is located just west of the City of Biwabik at latitude 47°32'0"N and longitude 92°22’30"W. The Minorca plant is located approximately seven miles to the northeast, near the town of Virginia, Minnesota at latitude 47°33'30"N and longitude 92°31.5'30"W.
Operations commenced in 1976 as an asset of Inland Steel Company. In 1998, Ispat International purchased Inland Steel and, in 2004, merged with LNM Holdings and International Steel Group to form Mittal Steel, which in 2007 merged with Arcelor to form ArcelorMittal. Minorca has been wholly owned by Cliffs since the 2020 AM USA Transaction.
300dpi Minorca.jpg
Minorca holds 13,690 acres of surface rights, of which 282 acres are associated with mineral leases. 100% of the mineral rights are leased. The property is comprised of 3,135 acres of mineral leases expiring between 2035 and 2056. Leases are maintained by making minimum prepaid royalty payments. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates.
The operation includes a concentrating and pelletizing facility, along with two open pit iron ore mines located approximately seven miles from the processing facilities. The processing operations consist of a crushing facility, a three-line concentration facility and a single-line straight grate pelletizing plant. Pellets are transported by CN rail to ports on Lake Superior.
The net book value of Minorca's property, plant and equipment was $209 million as of December 31, 2023.
For more information, see Exhibit 96.2, Technical Report Summary on the Minorca Property, Minnesota, USA, prepared for the Company by the QP, SLR, with an effective date of December 31, 2021.
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NORTHSHORE
Northshore's (100% owned) mine is located on the northeastern edge of the Mesabi Iron Range in northeastern Minnesota, approximately four miles southeast of Babbitt, Minnesota at latitude 47°40'12.15"N and longitude 91°53'1.28"W. The processing facility is approximately 41 miles to the southeast and immediately adjacent to the city of Silver Bay in Lake County, Minnesota at latitude 47°17'38.95"N and longitude 91°15'23.38"W.
Operations commenced in 1952 as an asset of the Reserve Mining Company and continued production until 1986 when Reserve Mining declared bankruptcy. Cyprus Minerals Company purchased the facilities in 1989. Cyprus subsequently sold the facilities to Cliffs in 1994.
Northshore holds 28,041 acres of surface rights, of which 8,966 acres are associated with mineral leases. 100% of the mineral rights are leased. The property is comprised of 10,356 acres of mineral leases. Some leases do not expire until the mineral reserves are exhausted while others expire between 2034 and 2075. Leases are maintained by making minimum prepaid royalty payments. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates.
300dpi Northshore 1.jpg300dpi Northshore 2.jpg
The operation includes 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 can produce both standard and DR-grade pellets. The plant site has its own ship loading port located on Lake Superior.
The net book value of Northshore's property, plant and equipment was $235 million as of December 31, 2023.
For more information, see Exhibit 96.3, Technical Report Summary on the Northshore Property, Minnesota, USA, prepared for the Company by the QP, SLR, with an effective date of December 31, 2021.
TILDEN
Tilden (100% owned) is located in Marquette County in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on the Marquette Iron Range, approximately five miles south of the city of Ishpeming, Michigan at latitude 46° 29' N and longitude 87° 40' W.
300dpi Tilden.jpg
The property commenced operations in 1974 under a partnership of Algoma Steel, Stelco, J&L Steel, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, Sharon Steel and The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company. The property has since been at least partially in the possession of a subsidiary of Cliffs. In 2001, Cliffs acquired Algoma Steel's 45% interest in Tilden. In 2017, Cliffs became the sole owner of Tilden.
Tilden holds 21,100 acres of surface rights and leases 2,470 acres of mineral rights expiring between 2061 and 2070. Leases are maintained by making minimum prepaid royalty payments. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates.
Operations include an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, AG mills and floatation to produce hematite concentrates that are then supplied to the on-site pellet plant. From the site, pellets are transported by our LS&I (Lake Superior & Ishpeming Railroad Company) rail to a ship loading port at Marquette, Michigan, operated by LS&I.
The net book value of Tilden's property, plant and equipment was $245 million as of December 31, 2023.
For more information, see Exhibit 96.5, Technical Report Summary on the Tilden Property, Michigan, USA, prepared for the Company by the QP, SLR, with an effective date of December 31, 2021.
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UNITED TACONITE
United Taconite's (100% owned) mine and offices are located on Minnesota's Mesabi Iron Range just north of Eveleth, Minnesota at latitude 47°29'1.62" N, longitude 92°32'23.69" W. The processing facilities are located approximately eight miles to the southeast.
The property commenced operations as an asset of Eveleth Taconite Company in 1965 before it was purchased by United Taconite (70% Cliffs and 30% Laiwu Steel) in December 2003. The property has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Cliffs since 2008.
United Taconite owns 14,199 acres of surface rights, of which 703 acres are associated with mineral leases. An additional 145 acres of surface rights are leased from the State of Minnesota. We lease 100% of the mineral rights, comprised of 4,908 acres expiring between 2037 and 2066, with the exception of the State of Minnesota mineral lease, which expires in 2027. Leases are maintained by making minimum prepaid royalty payments. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates.
Operations include an open pit truck and shovel mine where two stages of crushing occur before the ore is transported by rail, operated by CN, to the plant site. 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 on-site pellet plant. From the plant site, pellets are transported by CN rail to a ship loading port at Duluth, Minnesota, operated by CN.
The net book value of United Taconite's property, plant and equipment was $559 million as of December 31, 2023.
300dpi UTAC.jpg
For more information, see Exhibit 96.4, Technical Report Summary on the United Taconite Property, Minnesota, USA, prepared for the Company by the QP, SLR, with an effective date of December 31, 2021.
MINERAL RESOURCES
Mineral resources are defined under Item 1300 of Regulation S-K as a concentration or occurrence of material of economic interest in or on the Earth’s crust in such form, grade or quality, and quantity that there are reasonable prospects for economic extraction. A mineral resource is a reasonable estimate of mineralization, taking into account relevant factors such as cut-off grade, likely mining dimensions, location or continuity that, with the assumed justifiable technical and economic conditions, is likely to, in whole or part, become economically extractable.
A detailed breakdown of the mineral resources exclusive of mineral reserves is presented in the table below. Mineral resources were defined and constrained within open-pit shells, prepared by Cliffs, and based on a US$90.00/WLT pellet price, while meeting defined cut-off grade criteria and existing pellet specifications. All mineral resource estimates were reviewed and validated by the QP, SLR.
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The following represents iron ore mineral resources, exclusive of mineral reserves, as of December 31, 2023 and 2022:
Iron Ore Mineral Resources
MeasuredIndicatedMeasured + IndicatedProcessInferred
(In millions of long tons)Tonnage% GradeTonnage% GradeTonnage% GradeRecoveryTonnage% Grade
Total Iron Ore1,351 22.5 1,483 23.6 2,834 23.1 31%420 32.4 
Michigan— — 135 35.5 135 35.5 36%350 34.7 
Minnesota1,351 22.5 1,348 22.4 2,699 22.4 31%70 21.0 
Hibbing1
19.2 18.7 19.2 25%— — 
Minorca484 22.9 317 22.9 801 22.9 33%30 21.1 
Northshore767 22.1 391 22.4 1,158 22.2 26%14 19.8 
Tilden— — 135 35.5 135 35.5 36%350 34.7 
United Taconite92 23.6 639 22.2 731 22.4 32%26 21.5 
1Hibbing is reported at 85.3% based on our ownership level.
Reference point selected is the saleable tons based on the process recovery.
Process recovery may change based on the required saleable product mix and is reported as wet product percentage.
Mineral resources are estimated using the following cut-off grades: 25% FeT for Tilden hematite; 15% magnetic Fe for Northshore; 16% magnetic Fe for Minorca; 17% magnetic Fe for United Taconite; and 13% magnetic Fe for Hibbing.
Tonnage is reported in long tons equivalent to 2,240 pounds and has been rounded to the nearest 100,000.
Mineral resources are reported at a $90.00/lt wet standard pellet price freight-on-board (FOB) Lake Superior, which is based on the mine planning model's three-year trailing average of the realized product revenue rate.
We did not have any material changes to our mineral resources during 2023. The material assumptions and criteria used for the mineral resource estimates, including but not limited to leases, permits and geotechnical pit design, are covered in more detail in Sections 11 through 13 of the respective Technical Report Summaries filed as Exhibits 96.1 through 96.5 to this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
MINERAL RESERVES
Mineral reserves are defined under Item 1300 of Regulation S-K as an estimate of tonnage and grade or quality of indicated and measured mineral resources that, in the opinion of the QP, can be the basis of an economically viable project. More specifically, it is the economically mineable part of a measured or indicated mineral resource, which includes diluting materials and allowances for losses that may occur when the material is mined or extracted.
Proven mineral reserves are defined under Item 1300 of Regulation S-K as the economically mineable part of a measured mineral resource and can only result from conversion of a measured mineral resource. Probable mineral reserves are defined under Item 1300 of Regulation S-K as the economically mineable part of an indicated and, in some cases, a measured mineral resource. All mineral reserves are classified as proven or probable and are supported by LoM plans.
Mineral reserves are based on pricing that does not exceed the three-year trailing average index price of iron pellets adjusted to realized price. We evaluate and analyze, and engage QPs to review and verify, mineral reserves in accordance with our mineral policy and SEC requirements and then complete updated LoM plans. The table below identifies the year in which the latest updated LoM plan was completed.
Mineral reserves estimates for our iron mines are constrained by fully designed open pits developed using three-dimensional modeling techniques. These open pits incorporate design slopes, practical mining shapes and access ramps to assure the accuracy of our mineral reserve estimates. All operations' mineral reserves have been adjusted net of production through year-end 2023. All mineral reserves estimates as of December 31, 2021 were reviewed and validated by the QP, SLR.
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The following represents iron ore mineral reserves as of December 31, 2023:
Iron Ore Mineral Reserves
as of December 31, 2023
Last LoM PlanProvenProbableProven & ProbableProcess
(In millions of long tons)Reserve AnalysisTonnage% GradeTonnage% GradeTonnage% GradeRecovery
Total Iron Ore539 24.0 1,643 26.4 2,182 25.8 33%
Michigan35.3 478 34.7 482 34.7 37%
Minnesota535 23.9 1,165 23.0 1,700 23.3 31%
Hibbing1
202147 18.7 18.7 55 18.7 26%
Minorca202186 23.7 25.1 93 23.8 34%
Northshore2020288 25.3 519 24.1 807 24.5 29%
Tilden202135.3 478 34.7 482 34.7 37%
United Taconite2019114 23.1 631 22.1 745 22.3 33%
1Hibbing is reported at 85.3% based on our ownership level.
Reference point selected by the QP is the saleable tons based on the process recovery.
Process recovery may change based on the required saleable product mix and is reported as wet product percentage.
Mineral reserves are estimated using the following cut-off grades: 25% FeT for Tilden hematite; 19% magnetic Fe for Northshore; 16% magnetic Fe for Minorca; 17% magnetic Fe for United Taconite; and 13% magnetic Fe for Hibbing.
Tonnage is reported in long tons equivalent to 2,240 pounds and has been rounded to the nearest 100,000.
Mineral reserves are classified as probable if not scheduled within the first 20 years.
Mineral reserves are reported at a $90.00/lt wet standard pellet price freight-on-board (FOB) Lake Superior, which is based on the mine planning model's three-year trailing average of the realized product revenue rate.
The material assumptions and criteria used for the mineral reserves estimates, including but not limited to leases, permits and geotechnical pit design, are covered in more detail in Sections 11 through 13 of the respective Technical Report Summaries filed as Exhibits 96.1 through 96.5 to this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

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For comparison purposes, the following represents iron ore mineral reserves as of December 31, 2022:
Iron Ore Mineral Reserves
as of December 31, 2022
ProvenProbableProven & ProbableProcess
(In millions of long tons)Tonnage% GradeTonnage% GradeTonnage% GradeRecovery
Total Iron Ore593 23.8 1,665 26.5 2,258 25.8 32%
Michigan35.3 500 34.7 504 34.7 37%
Minnesota589 23.7 1,165 23.0 1,754 23.2 31%
Hibbing1
67 18.7 18.7 75 18.7 26%
Minorca95 23.7 25.1 102 23.8 34%
Northshore299 25.3 519 24.1 818 24.6 29%
Tilden35.3 500 34.7 504 34.7 37%
United Taconite128 23.1 631 22.1 759 22.3 33%
1Hibbing is reported at 85.3% based on our ownership level.
Reference point selected by the QP is the saleable tons based on the process recovery.
Process recovery may change based on the required saleable product mix and is reported as wet product percentage.
Mineral reserves are estimated using the following cut-off grades: 25% FeT for Tilden hematite; 19% magnetic Fe for Northshore; 16% magnetic Fe for Minorca; 17% magnetic Fe for United Taconite; and 13% magnetic Fe for Hibbing.
Tonnage is reported in long tons equivalent to 2,240 pounds and has been rounded to the nearest 100,000.
Mineral Reserves are classified as probable if not scheduled within the first 20 years.
Mineral Reserves are reported at a $90.00/lt wet standard pellet price freight-on-board (FOB) Lake Superior, which is based on the mine planning model's three-year trailing average of the realized product revenue rate.
Overall, mineral reserves estimates as of December 31, 2023, as compared to the prior-year period, decreased by 3%, which was driven by mining depletion.
INTERNAL CONTROLS DISCLOSURE
We demonstrated repeated attainment of annual production and quality targets for at least 40 years at each material iron ore mine operated by the Company. Internal controls the Company uses in its industry-standard approach to exploration and mineral resource and reserve estimation efforts are governed by its Mineral Reserve and Mineral Resource Estimation Policy and are detailed in Cliffs’ minimum operating standards for Resource Estimation and Strategic Mine Planning. The controls include: confirmation of drill collar locations and drill hole traces, drill logging and sample collection and security, database verification and security, QA/QC programs, internal and third-party QP statistical analysis, third-party QP model validation, and reconciliation. Modeling and analysis of the Company’s resources has been developed by Company personnel or third-party consultant SLR and reviewed by internal management and the external independent QP, SLR. Reserve estimations have been completed by Company personnel and reviewed by internal management and the QP, SLR.
Drill hole collar surveying methods have evolved with advancements in technology, moving from optical methods to global positioning system, which is currently in use. For the deposit type, all survey methods used for the collar locations are expected to provide adequate accuracy for the drill hole locations. Due to the relatively shallow depth and vertical nature of drill holes at Cliffs’ Minnesota mining operations, downhole deviation surveys are typically not conducted. Drill holes pierce the generally shallow-dipping, tabular iron formation at near perpendicular angles. At the more geologically and structurally complex Tilden mine in Michigan, where drilling deeper than 500 feet is required, downhole surveys have moved from a clay-impression procedure to the gyroscopic method currently in use.
Drill core is transported directly from the drill rig to each site’s core logging facility by either the drilling contractor or Cliffs’ personnel. Temporary core storage is located at each site’s secure logging facility. Depending on the mining operation, unused sample reserves, parts, concentrates and splits are securely stored in labeled boxes or barrels at a Cliffs laboratory facility or logging facility, or via a contracted external laboratory.
Cliffs' QA/QC programs are site-specific and range from in-development to well-developed, long standing protocols that involve formal procedures for the use of crude material standards developed from on-site material, as well as regularly inserted coarse and concentrate duplicate samples, control chart analysis and reporting. Cliffs typically uses internal and external labs for geometallurgical analyses that are accredited with ASQ/ANSI ISO-9001:2015 (American Society for Quality/American National Standards Institute) for their system of quality management. Quality sample results are monitored and enacted on where warranted. Also, Cliffs has implemented a drill campaign reporting practice to ensure results are documented, with defined and illustrated failure metrics, outcomes of investigations, comparisons with previous year’s results and recommendations. The QP, SLR, reviewed Cliffs' QA/QC practices and provided recommendations for further work. Where QA/QC programs are still in
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development and prior to resource estimation, Cliffs conducted data verification studies utilizing a suite of blind crude ore standards and blind duplicates from historical sample reserves within the LoM plan. Where unaccredited labs provided data used in resource estimation, check lab studies were initiated to verify analytical results. Cliffs is currently working toward aligning QA/QC protocols at each mine to the Company’s current best practice.
Cliffs maintains exploration drill hole data in an externally-managed, access-controlled acQuire database that is backed up online at regularly scheduled intervals to provide data redundancy and security. Certification of database integrity is accomplished by both visual and statistical inspections comparing geology, assay values and survey locations cross-referenced back to laboratory data and geologic logs. Any discrepancies identified are corrected by referring to hard-copy assay and core log information archived in Cliffs' Mine Engineering department files. Prior to modeling, a secondary validation check is completed using built-in data validation routines in the modeling software.
Cliffs performs routine drill hole database verification with every new drilling program and new block model build, including: check of unique drill hole identifications and collar coordinates; check of assay or lithology points extending past the specified maximum depth of drill hole; check of abnormal dips and azimuths of downhole drill hole surveys; check of negative, overlapping and missing intervals; and check of incorrect lithologic codes and assay values.
In 2020 and 2021, Cliffs' geologists completed data verification exercises within the LoM plan area for each mining operation. This was audited by the QP, SLR, to assess accuracy and completeness. Database values were checked against source documents including collar surveys, geologic logs and assay certificates. Data verification included collar coordinates, depth intervals of geologic units and assay samples, and results of geometallurgical analyses applied to mineral resource estimation and mine planning.
Cliffs’ mineral resource estimates were validated by the QP, SLR, using standard industry techniques including statistical comparisons with composite samples and parallel nearest neighbor estimates, swath plots, as well as visual reviews in cross-section and plan. A visual review comparing blocks to drill holes for key economic variables, completed after the block modeling work, was performed to ensure general lithologic and analytical conformance. Cliffs’ mining operations have demonstrated good agreement between planned and actual product produced over more than 40 years for each operation.
Cliffs classifies the mineral resources based primarily on drill hole spacing and influenced by geologic continuity, ranges of economic criteria and reconciliation. Some post-processing is undertaken to ensure spatial consistency and remove isolated and fringe blocks. The resource area for each operation is limited by a polygon and subsequent pit shell based on practical mining limits. To ensure that all mineral resource statements satisfy the “reasonable prospects for economic extraction” requirement, in the definition of the mineral resources under Item 1300 of Regulation S-K, factors significant to technical feasibility and potential economic viability are considered (e.g., ability to obtain permits and legal and land tenure considerations). Mineral resources are defined and constrained within optimized, open-pit shells, prepared by Cliffs and reviewed by the QP, SLR, and based on a US$90.00/WLT pellet value and target pellet iron content.
Grade and tonnage reconciliations are run on current production versus modeled production, which provides insight on the accuracy of the modeled assay data versus actual production for each mining operation.
For a discussion of comprehensive risk inherent in the estimation of mineral reserves, see Part I - Item 1A. Risk Factors - V. Sustainability and Development Risks - We rely on estimates of our recoverable mineral reserves, which are complex due to geological characteristics of the properties and the number of assumptions made.
COAL MINING AND COKEMAKING
Princeton is a coal mining complex located in West Virginia that specializes in surface and underground mining of metallurgical coal to produce coke and pulverized coal injection coal. As of December 31, 2023, we have annual rated metallurgical coal production capacity of 1.8 million net tons from our Princeton mine. During the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, the mine produced 1.3 million and 1.5 million net tons of coal, respectively. We own 100% of the Princeton mine, which has been operating since 1995. We own 60% of the mineral rights and lease 40% via multiple mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. Princeton's operations consist of three open-pit surface mines, two underground mines, a preparation plant and two rail loadouts.
Our Monessen and Warren facilities produce furnace coke and related by-products in Monessen, Pennsylvania and Warren, Ohio, respectively. We also operate a cokemaking facility located within Burns Harbor. These facilities have an aggregate annual rated capacity of 2.6 million net tons. During the years ended December 31, 2023 and 2022, our cokemaking facilities produced 2.4 million and 2.1 million net tons of coke, respectively.
OTHER BUSINESSES
Our Tubular operating segment consists of our subsidiary Tubular Components, which has plants in Walbridge, Ohio and Columbus, Indiana. The Walbridge plant operates six electric resistance welded tube mills on owned property. The Columbus plant operates five electric resistance welded tube mills and four high-speed cold saws on leased property.
Our Tooling and Stamping operating segment consists of our subsidiary Tooling and Stamping and its related companies, which provides advanced-engineered solutions, tool design and build, hot- and cold-stamped steel components and complex assemblies for the automotive market across ten plants, of which certain of these are under long-term lease agreements, in Ontario, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. Its facilities feature eight large-bed, hot-stamping presses, providing 14 lines of production; 82 cold-stamping presses ranging from 150 net tons to 3,000 net tons of pressing capacity; 18 large-bed, high-tonnage tryout presses with
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prove-out capabilities for new tool builds; and 151 multi-axis welding assembly cells.
Our European operating segment consists of a metal distribution company that buys and sells steel, steel products and other materials. We operate out of six different European countries: the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
LEGAL PROCEEDINGS RELATING TO OUR BUSINESS
JSW Steel Litigation. On June 8, 2021, JSW Steel filed a complaint against Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., AK Steel Holding Corporation (now known as Cleveland-Cliffs Steel Holding Corporation), Nucor Corporation and U.S. Steel in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. JSW Steel alleges that the defendants engaged in a group boycott against JSW Steel in violation of federal and Texas antitrust laws by refusing to sell semi-finished steel slabs to JSW Steel, beginning in 2018 and continuing through the present; civil conspiracy among the defendants; and tortious interference with JSW Steel’s contractual rights and business relations involving its vendors and customers. JSW Steel’s allegations involve the tariffs and quotas imposed on steel imports by the U.S. government under Section 232 beginning in March 2018, which JSW Steel alleges raised the price of imported slabs, and statements made to the U.S. government related to exemption requests submitted by JSW Steel in 2018 and 2021. JSW Steel further claims that this alleged anticompetitive conduct negatively impacted JSW Steel’s costs, production and revenues and prevented it from pursuing expansion plans at its Ohio and Texas facilities that would compete with the defendants. JSW Steel is seeking to hold the defendants jointly and severally liable for treble damages in an amount in excess of $500 million and other relief. On February 17, 2022, the district court granted the defendants' Motions to Dismiss in their entirety and dismissed all of JSW's claims with prejudice. On March 16, 2022, JSW filed a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and oral arguments on the appeal were held on February 6, 2023. We continue to believe the claims asserted against us are without merit, and we are vigorously defending against them.
Mesabi Metallics Adversary Proceeding. On September 7, 2017, Mesabi Metallics Company LLC (f/k/a Essar Steel Minnesota LLC) ("Mesabi Metallics") filed a complaint against Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. in the Essar Steel Minnesota LLC and ESML Holdings Inc. bankruptcy proceeding that is pending in the United States Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware. Mesabi Metallics alleges tortious interference with its contractual rights and business relations involving certain vendors, suppliers and contractors, violations of federal and Minnesota antitrust laws through monopolization, attempted monopolization and restraint of trade, violation of the automatic stay, and civil conspiracy with unnamed Doe defendants. Mesabi Metallics amended its complaint to add additional defendants, including, among others, our subsidiary, Cleveland-Cliffs Minnesota Land Development Company LLC ("Cliffs Minnesota Land"), and to add additional claims, including avoidance and recovery of unauthorized post-petition transfers of real estate interests, claims disallowance, civil contempt and declaratory relief. Mesabi Metallics seeks, among other things, unspecified damages and injunctive relief. Cliffs and Cliffs Minnesota Land filed counterclaims against Mesabi Metallics, Chippewa Capital Partners ("Chippewa"), and Thomas M. Clarke ("Clarke") for tortious interference and civil conspiracy, as well as additional claims against Chippewa and Clarke for aiding and abetting tortious interference, for which we seek, among other things, damages and injunctive relief. Our counterclaim against Clarke for libel was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. The parties filed various dispositive motions on certain of the claims, including a motion for partial summary judgment to settle a dispute over real estate transactions between Cliffs Minnesota Land and Glacier Park Iron Ore Properties LLC ("GPIOP"). A ruling in favor of Cliffs, Cliffs Minnesota Land and GPIOP was issued on July 23, 2018, finding that Mesabi Metallics' leases had terminated and upholding Cliffs' and Cliffs Minnesota Land's purchase and lease of the contested real estate interests. Mesabi Metallics filed a Motion for Leave to File an Interlocutory Appeal, which was denied on September 10, 2019. Discovery has been completed, and we have filed for summary judgment on all claims that Mesabi Metallics has asserted against us. Mesabi Metallics, Chippewa and Clarke have also filed for summary judgment on various claims and issues in the case. We believe the claims asserted against us are without merit, and we intend to continue to vigorously defend against all remaining claims in the lawsuit.
Certain Legacy Legal Proceedings Relating to our Steel Operations. Certain of our acquired subsidiaries have been named as defendants, among many other named defendants, in numerous lawsuits filed since 1990 claiming injury allegedly resulting from exposure to asbestos. Similar lawsuits seeking monetary relief continue to be filed in various jurisdictions in the U.S., which cases are vigorously defended. Although predictions about the outcome of pending litigation is subject to uncertainties, based upon present knowledge, we believe it is unlikely that the resolution in the aggregate of these claims will have a material adverse effect on our consolidated results of operations, cash flows or financial condition.
LEGAL PROCEEDINGS RELATING TO ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS
SEC regulations require us to disclose certain information about administrative or judicial proceedings involving the environment and to which a governmental authority is a party if we reasonably believe that such proceedings may result in monetary sanctions above a stated threshold. Pursuant to SEC regulations, we use a threshold of $1 million for purposes of determining whether disclosure of any such proceedings is required. We believe that this threshold is reasonably designed to result in disclosure of any such proceedings that are material to our business or financial condition.
Burns Harbor Water Issues. In August 2019, ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor LLC (n/k/a Cleveland-Cliffs Burns Harbor LLC) suffered a loss of the blast furnace cooling water recycle system, which led to the discharge of cyanide and ammonia in excess of the Burns Harbor plant's NPDES permit limits. Since that time, the facility has taken numerous steps to prevent recurrence and maintain compliance with its NPDES permit. We engaged in settlement discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice, the EPA and the State of Indiana to resolve any alleged violations of environmental laws or regulations arising out of the August 2019 event. Later
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stages of the settlement discussions included the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC), which had filed a lawsuit on December 20, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana alleging violations resulting from the August 2019 event and other Clean Water Act claims. On February 14, 2022, the United States and the State of Indiana filed a complaint and a proposed consent decree, and on April 21, 2022, the United States, with the consent of all of the parties, filed a motion seeking final approval of the consent decree from the court. The consent decree was approved by the court with an effective date of May 6, 2022. The consent decree requires specified enhancements to the mill's wastewater treatment systems and required us to pay a $3 million civil penalty, along with other terms and conditions. Other parties to the consent decree include the United States, the State of Indiana, ELPC and HEC. The ELPC/HEC civil litigation was dismissed with prejudice on May 12, 2022. In addition, ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor LLC was served with a subpoena on December 5, 2019, from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, relating to the August 2019 event. We responded to the subpoena requests, including follow-up requests, and we have been informed that the government has now closed its investigation. With the resolution of monetary sanctions and injunctive relief requirements under the consent decree, we do not believe that the costs to resolve any other third-party claims that arise out of the August 2019 event, including natural resource damages claims pending final resolution, are likely to have, individually or in the aggregate, a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.
ITEM 4. 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 information concerning mine safety and health or other regulatory matters for each of our mine locations that are covered under the scope of the Dodd-Frank Act is included in Exhibit 95 of Part IV – Item 15. Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
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PART II
ITEM 5. 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 (New York Stock Exchange).
HOLDERS
At February 8, 2024, we had 2,526 shareholders of record.
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 Index; (3) S&P Metals and Mining Select Industry 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, based on monthly granularity.
573
201820192020202120222023
Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.Return %— 12.60 77.46 49.52 (26.00)26.75 
Cumulative $100.00112.60199.82298.77221.09280.23
S&P 500 IndexReturn %— 31.48 18.39 28.68 (18.13)26.26 
Cumulative $100.00131.48155.66200.30163.99207.05
S&P Metals and Mining Select Industry IndexReturn %— 14.70 15.97 34.94