Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. Provides North American Business Unit Update

CLEVELAND--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLF) (Paris: CLF) today provided an update for its North American Business Unit, including 2009 North American Iron Ore contractual obligations for volume and the Company's expectations for North American Coal sales volumes.

North American Iron Ore

Cliffs indicated that based on amendments to customer supply agreements it expects to defer approximately one million tons of purchase obligations for iron ore pellets from customers to the first quarter of 2010.

As a result, the Company now has contractual obligations for 17 million tons of iron ore pellets in 2009 and expects to collect cash from customers for this amount in the current year. The amount of sales volume recognized in 2009 will depend on accounting principles for "bill and hold" sales. The 17 million tons referenced above excludes revenue recognition of 1.2 million tons deferred at the end of 2008, which are being recognized as these tons ship in 2009.

Recently, Vale and a steelmaker in Europe agreed to a price settlement decrease of approximately 48% for iron ore pellets. Assuming this settlement price is adopted by Eastern Canada and other iron ore pellet producers, and combined with the impact of the amendments referenced above, the Company expects average revenue per ton in the North American Iron Ore business segment to be approximately $75 in 2009.

Currently, the North American Iron Ore business segment is expected to produce 15 million tons in 2009 at a cost of $70 to $80 per ton.

Extended Plant Shutdown at Hibbing Taconite

Cliffs also indicated that the owners of the Hibbing Taconite Joint Venture (ArcelorMittal -62.3%, Cliffs Natural Resources - 23%, and U.S. Steel Canada - 14.7%) in Minnesota have made the decision to extend the plant's current shutdown status through the first quarter of 2010 as a result of continuing soft demand for iron ore pellets. The facility was originally shut down in May 2009, following an idling of two of Hibbing's three pelletizing furnaces in March 2009. The initial shutdown had been expected to last 15 weeks. Hibbing Taconite has the rated capacity of 8.0 million tons per year and employs approximately 700 people when operating at full capacity.

North American Coal

Cliffs also revised sales volume expectations for its North American Coal business segment to approximately 1.5 million short tons of coal at average revenue of approximately $100 per ton

Don Gallagher, president, Cliffs' North American Business Unit, said, "While we have begun to see preliminary signs of stabilization in the North American steelmaking industry, we will continue to ensure our production and inventory are balanced with customer demand."

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Cliffs Natural Resources is an international mining and natural resources company. We are the largest producer of iron ore pellets in North America, a major supplier of direct-shipping lump and fines iron ore out of Australia and a significant producer of metallurgical coal. With core values of environmental and capital stewardship, our colleagues across the globe endeavor to provide all stakeholders operating and financial transparency as embodied in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework. Our Company is organized through three geographic business units:

The North American business unit is comprised of six iron ore mines owned or managed in Michigan, Minnesota and Eastern Canada, and two coking coal mining complexes located in West Virginia and Alabama. The Asia Pacific business unit is comprised of two iron ore mining complexes in Western Australia and a 45% economic interest in a coking and thermal coal mine in Queensland, Australia. The South American business unit includes a 30% interest in the Amapa Project, an iron ore project in the state of Amapa in Brazil.

Over recent years, Cliffs has been executing a strategy designed to achieve scale in the mining industry and focused on serving the world's largest and fastest growing steel markets.

News releases and other information on the Company are available on the Internet at: or

"Safe Harbor" Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995

This news release contains predictive statements that are intended to be made as "forward-looking" within the safe harbor protections of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although we believe that our forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, such statements are subject to risk and uncertainties.

Actual results may differ materially from such statements for a variety of reasons, including: the impact of the global economic crisis on the North American and global integrated steel industry; the length and extent of any potential and current production curtailments at both our customer's facility and at our iron ore and coal mining operations; changes in the sales volumes or mix; the impact of any decreases in international prices for iron ore and/or metallurgical coal resulting from the global economic crisis; the impact of price-adjustment factors on our sales contracts; changes in demand for iron ore pellets by North American integrated steel producers, or changes in Asian iron ore demand due to changes in steel utilization rates, operational factors, electric furnace production or imports into the United States and Canada of semi-finished steel or pig iron; the impact of consolidation and rationalization in the steel industry; the impact of any disputes with customers; availability of capital equipment and component parts; availability of float capacity; the impact of the global economic crisis on the availability and cost of capital, our ability to maintain adequate liquidity and on our ability to access the capital markets, including the proposed common share offering; changes in the financial condition of our partners and/or customers; rejection of major contracts and/or venture agreements by customers and/or participants under provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code or similar statutes in other countries; events or circumstances that could impair or adversely impact the viability of a mine and the carrying value of associated assets; inability to achieve expected production levels; reductions in current resource estimates; the investment performance of our pension and other postretirement benefit plans, which could increase our plan costs; impacts of increasing governmental regulation including failure to receive or maintain required environmental permits; problems with productivity, third party contractors, labor disputes, weather conditions, fluctuations in ore grade, tons mined, changes in cost factors including energy costs, transportation, mine closure obligations and employee benefit costs; the ability to identify, acquire and integrate strategic acquisition candidates; risks associated with operations in multiple countries; and the effect of these various risks on our future cash flows, debt levels, liquidity and financial position.

Reference is also made to the detailed explanation of the many factors and risks that may cause such predictive statements to turn out differently, set forth in our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and previous news releases filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which are publicly available on Cliffs Natural Resources' website. The information contained in this document speaks as of the date of this news release and may be superseded by subsequent events.

    Source: Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.