CLIFFS NATURAL RESOURCES INC. 10-K 2012
Documents found in this filing:
UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011
For the transition period from to .
Commission File Number: 1-8944
CLIFFS NATURAL RESOURCES INC.
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)
Registrants Telephone Number, Including Area Code: (216) 694-5700
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. YES x 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 x
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 x NO ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). YES x NO ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrants knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See definitions of large accelerated filer, accelerated filer and smaller reporting company in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer x Accelerated filer ¨ Non-accelerated filer ¨ Smaller reporting company ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). YES ¨ NO x
As of June 30, 2011, the aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant, based on the closing price of $92.45 per share as reported on the New York Stock Exchange Composite Index, was $13,430,571,403 (excluded from this figure is the voting stock beneficially owned by the registrants officers and directors).
The number of shares outstanding of the registrants Common Shares, par value $0.125 per share, was 142,013,534 as of February 13, 2012.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrants proxy statement for its annual meeting of shareholders scheduled to be held on May 8, 2012 are incorporated by reference into Part III.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The following abbreviations or acronyms are used in the text. References in this report to the Company, we, us, our and Cliffs are to Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. and subsidiaries, collectively. References to A$ or AUD refer to Australian currency, C$ to Canadian currency and $ to United States currency.
Item 1. Business.
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. traces its corporate history back to 1847. Today, we are an international mining and natural resources company. A member of the S&P 500 Index, we are a major global iron ore producer and a significant producer of high- and low-volatile metallurgical coal. Driven by the core values of safety, social, environmental and capital stewardship, our Companys associates across the globe endeavor to provide all stakeholders operating and financial transparency. Our Company is organized through a global commercial group responsible for sales and delivery of our products and a global operations group responsible for the production of the minerals that we market. Our Companys operations are organized according to product category and geographic location: U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, North American Coal, Asia Pacific Iron Ore, Asia Pacific Coal, Latin American Iron Ore, Ferroalloys, and our Global Exploration Group.
In the U.S., we operate five iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota, five metallurgical coal mines located in West Virginia and Alabama and one thermal coal mine located in West Virginia. We also operate two iron ore mines in Eastern Canada that primarily provide iron ore to the seaborne market for Asian steel producers. Our Asia Pacific operations are comprised of two iron ore mining complexes in Western Australia, serving the Asian iron ore markets with direct-shipping fines and lump ore, and a 45 percent economic interest in a coking and thermal coal mine located in Queensland, Australia. In Latin America, we have a 30 percent interest in Amapá, a Brazilian iron ore project, and in Ontario, Canada, we have a major chromite project in the pre-feasibility stage of exploration. In addition, our Global Exploration Group is focused on early involvement in exploration activities to identify new world-class projects for future development or projects that add significant value to existing operations.
Our business is largely driven by global demand for steelmaking raw materials in both developed and emerging economies. The environment for steelmaking in the U.S. and Canada during 2011 improved over the previous year, but still remained at levels lower than production capability. Steelmaking in Asia, led by Chinas economy, reached historically high levels in 2011. Global crude steel production, the primary driver of our business, was up approximately five percent in 2011 as compared to 2010. This included increases of approximately nine and seven percent in China and the U.S., respectively, which are the two largest markets for the Company. China produced approximately 683 million metric tons of crude steel in 2011, representing approximately 46 percent of global production.
The rapid growth in steel production in China over recent years has only been partially met by a corresponding increase in domestic Chinese iron ore production. Chinese iron ore deposits, although substantial, are of a lower grade (less than half of the equivalent iron ore content) than the current iron ore supplied from Brazil and Australia.
The world price of iron ore is influenced heavily by international demand, and rising spot market prices for iron ore have reflected this trend in recent years. The rapid growth in Chinese demand has created a market imbalance, which continues to indicate demand is outpacing supply. As a result of increasing spot prices for iron ore, there has been a shift in the industry toward shorter-term pricing arrangements linked to the spot market. Toward the latter half of 2011, spot prices for iron ore partially were impacted by the uncertainty in the worlds equity markets, the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in Europe and tighter credit markets in Asia. At the end of 2011 and into 2012, the Chinese monetary policy appears to have somewhat eased and many participants have returned to the market, leading to stabilization of spot prices.
The world market for metallurgical coal is also influenced by international demand. Throughout 2011, reported spot prices in Asia Pacific remained high by historical standards, at times trading above announced quarterly settlement price ranges of $225 to $330 per metric ton.
During 2011, capacity utilization among steelmaking facilities in North America demonstrated continued improvement, reaching an average rate of approximately 75 percent at year-end up from an average rate of approximately 70 percent for 2010. The U.S. economy remained stable, sustaining a healthy North American business. High year-over-year crude steel production and iron ore imports in Asia supported demand for our products in the seaborne markets. As a result, we increased production at most of our facilities during 2011.
Growth Strategy and Recent Developments
In 2011, we continued to increase our operating scale and presence as an international mining and natural resources company by maintaining our focus on integration and execution, including the integration of our acquisition of Consolidated Thompson. In addition, we have a number of capital projects underway in all of our reportable business segments. We believe these projects will continue to improve our operational performance, diversify our customer base and extend the reserve life of our portfolio of assets, all of which are necessary to sustain continued growth. As we continue to successfully grow our core mining businesses, we center our decision making on areas that will allow our management focus and allocation of capital resources to be deployed where we believe we can have the most impact for our stakeholders. Throughout 2011, we also reinforced our global reorganization, as our leadership moved to an integrated global management structure.
Specifically, we continued our strategic growth as an international mining and natural resources company through the following transactions in 2011:
Cliffs Chromite Project. In February 2011, we released preliminary project information for potential development of our Black Thor chromite deposit in the McFaulds Lake area of Northern Ontario. This project involves the largest known North American chromite deposit, located in one of the most remote areas of Ontario, the Far North. To date, exploration has consisted of geophysics and diamond drilling to delineate the Black Thor chromite zone. The released project information presented a base case reflecting one set of realistic options for the major inter-related components of the project, from mining of the chromite ore to ferrochrome production. During the course of pre-feasibility, feasibility and detailed design studies, other viable options may be identified and considered.
Consolidated Thompson. In May 2011, we acquired all of the outstanding common shares of Consolidated Thompson for C$17.25 per share in an all-cash transaction including net debt. The acquisition reflects our strategy to build scale by owning expandable and exportable steelmaking raw material assets serving international markets. The properties acquired through the acquisition are in proximity to our existing Canadian operations and will allow us to leverage our port facilities and supply the iron ore produced to the seaborne market. The acquisition also is expected to further diversify our existing customer base. Approval for capital investments totaling over $1.3 billion over the 2011 to 2016 timeframe have been obtained from our Board of Directors for the expansion of the Bloom Lake mine and processing capabilities in order to ramp-up production capacity from 8.0 million to 16.0 million metric tons of iron ore concentrate per year. The approved capital investments also include common infrastructure necessary to support the mines future production levels.
We also continued to pursue growth opportunities through early involvement in exploration and development activities by partnering with junior mining companies, which provide us low-cost entry points for potentially significant reserve additions.
As a result of the acquisition of Consolidated Thompson, we revised the number of our operating and reportable segments as determined under ASC 280 in 2011. Our companys primary operations are organized and managed according to product category and geographic location: U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, North American Coal, Asia Pacific Iron Ore, Asia Pacific Coal, Latin American Iron Ore, Ferroalloys, and Global Exploration Group. Our historical presentation of segment information consisted of three reportable segments: North American Iron Ore, North American Coal and Asia Pacific Iron Ore. Our restated presentation consists of four reportable segments: U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, North American Coal and Asia
Pacific Iron Ore. The Asia Pacific Coal, Latin American Iron Ore, Ferroalloys and Global Exploration Group operating segments do not meet reportable segment disclosure requirements and therefore are not separately reported.
The U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, and North American Coal business segments are headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Our Asia Pacific headquarters is located in Perth, Australia, and our Latin American headquarters has been relocated to Santiago, Chile. In addition, the Ferroalloys and Global Exploration Group operating segments currently are managed from our Cleveland, Ohio location.
We evaluate segment performance based on sales margin, defined as revenues less cost of goods sold and operating expenses identifiable to each segment. This measure of operating performance is an effective measurement as we focus on reducing production costs throughout the Company. Financial information about our segments, including financial information about geographic areas, is included in Item 7 and NOTE 2 SEGMENT REPORTING included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
U.S. Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore
We are a major global iron ore producer, primarily selling production from U.S. Iron Ore to integrated steel companies in the U.S. and Canada, and production from Eastern Canadian Iron Ore to the seaborne market for Asian steel producers. We manage and operate five iron ore mines located in Michigan and Minnesota and two iron ore mines in Eastern Canada. The U.S.-based mines and one of the mines in Eastern Canada currently have an annual rated capacity of 38.5 million gross tons of iron ore pellet production, representing 45.4 percent of total pellet production capacity in the U.S. and Canada. Based on our equity ownership in these mines, our share of the annual rated production capacity is currently 30.0 million gross tons, representing 35.4 percent of total annual pellet capacity in the U.S. and Canada. The second iron ore mine that we manage and operate in Eastern Canada currently has an annual rated capacity of 8.0 million gross tons of iron ore concentrate.
The following chart summarizes the estimated annual pellet production capacity and percentage of total U.S. and Canadian pellet production capacity for each of the respective iron ore producers in the U.S. and Canada as of December 31, 2011:
U.S. and Canadian Iron Ore Pellet
Annual Rated Capacity Tonnage
Our U.S. iron ore production generally is sold pursuant to term supply agreements with various price adjustment provisions, whereas our Eastern Canadian iron ore production is sold pursuant to multi-year and short-term pricing arrangements that are linked to the spot market.
For the year ended December 31, 2011, we produced a total of 31.0 million tons of iron ore pellets at U.S. Iron Ore, including 23.7 million tons for our account and 7.3 million tons on behalf of steel company partners of the mines. At Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, we produced a total of 6.9 million metric tons of iron ore pellets and concentrate for the same period, with concentrate production measured from the date of our acquisition of Consolidated Thompson in 2011.
We produce various grades of iron ore pellets, including standard, fluxed and high manganese, for use in our customers blast furnaces as part of the steelmaking process. The variation in grades results from the specific chemical and metallurgical properties of the ores at each mine and whether or not fluxstone is added in the process. Although the grade or grades of pellets currently delivered to each customer are based on that customers preferences, which depend in part on the characteristics of the customers blast furnace operation, in many cases our iron ore pellets can be used interchangeably. Industry demand for the various grades of iron ore pellets depends on each customers preferences and changes from time to time. In the event that a given mine is operating at full capacity, the terms of most of our pellet supply agreements allow some flexibility in providing our customers iron ore pellets from different mines.
Standard pellets require less processing, are generally the least costly pellets to produce and are called standard because no ground fluxstone, such as limestone or dolomite, is added to the iron ore concentrate before turning the concentrates into pellets. In the case of fluxed pellets, fluxstone is added to the concentrate, which produces pellets that can perform at higher productivity levels in the customers specific blast furnace and will minimize the amount of fluxstone the customer may be required to add to the blast furnace. High manganese pellets are the pellets produced at our Wabush operation in Eastern Canada, where there is more natural manganese in the crude ore than is found at our other operations. The manganese contained in the iron ore mined at Wabush cannot be removed entirely during the concentrating process. Wabush produces manganese pellets, both in standard and fluxed grades.
It is not possible to produce pellets with identical physical and chemical properties from each of our mining and processing operations. The grade or grades of pellets purchased by and delivered to each customer are based on that customers preferences and availability.
Each of our U.S. Iron Ore mines is located near the Great Lakes and both of our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore mines are located near the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is connected to the Great Lakes. The majority of our iron ore pellets and concentrate are transported via railroads to loading ports for shipment via vessel to steelmakers in the U.S., Canada or into the international seaborne market.
Our U.S. Iron Ore sales are influenced by seasonal factors in the first quarter of the year as shipments and sales are restricted by weather conditions on the Great Lakes. During the first quarter, we continue to produce our products, but we cannot ship those products via lake vessel until the conditions on the Great Lakes are navigable, which causes our first quarter inventory levels to rise. Our limited practice of shipping product to ports on the lower Great Lakes or to customers facilities prior to the transfer of title has somewhat mitigated the seasonal effect on first quarter inventories and sales, as shipment from this point to the customers operations is not limited by weather-related shipping constraints. At December 31, 2011 and 2010, we had approximately 1.2 million and 0.8 million tons of pellets, respectively, in inventory at lower lakes or customers facilities.
U.S. Iron Ore Customers
Our U.S. Iron Ore revenues primarily are derived from sales of iron ore pellets to the North American integrated steel industry, consisting of seven major customers. Generally, we have multi-year supply agreements with our customers. Sales volume under these agreements largely is dependent on customer requirements, and in many cases, we are the sole supplier of iron ore to the customer. Historically, each agreement has contained a base price that is adjusted annually using one or more adjustment factors. Factors that could result in a price adjustment include international pellet prices, measures of general industrial inflation and steel prices. Additionally, certain of our supply agreements have a provision that limits the amount of price increase or decrease in any given year. In 2010, the worlds largest iron ore producers moved away from the annual international benchmark pricing mechanism referenced in certain of our customer supply agreements, resulting in
a shift in the industry toward shorter-term pricing arrangements linked to the spot market. These changes caused us to assess the impact a change to the historical annual pricing mechanism would have on certain of our larger existing U.S. Iron Ore customer supply agreements and resulted in modifications to certain of our U.S. Iron Ore customer supply agreements for the 2011 contract year. We reached final pricing settlements with a majority of our U.S. Iron Ore customers for the 2011 contract year. However, in some cases we are still working to revise components of the pricing calculations referenced within our supply agreements to incorporate new pricing mechanisms as a result of the changes to historical benchmark pricing.
During 2011, 2010 and 2009, we sold 24.2 million, 23.0 million and 13.7 million tons of iron ore pellets, respectively, from our share of the production from our U.S. Iron Ore mines. The segments five largest customers together accounted for a total of 83 percent, 91 percent and 92 percent of U.S. Iron Ore product revenues for the years 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively. Refer to Concentration of Customers within Item 1 Business, for additional information regarding our major customers.
Eastern Canadian Iron Ore Customers
Our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore revenues are derived from sales of iron ore pellets and concentrate to the seaborne market for Asian steel producers, consisting of one major customer for iron ore concentrate. The iron ore pellets produced by Eastern Canadian Iron Ore are sold to various customers, none of which are considered individually significant. Pricing for our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore customers consists of a mix of multi-year and short-term pricing arrangements that are linked to the spot market. The arrangements primarily use short-term pricing mechanisms of various durations based on spot prices.
During 2011, 2010 and 2009, we sold 7.4 million, 3.3 million and 2.7 million metric tons of iron ore pellets and concentrate, respectively, from our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore mines, with the segments five largest customers together accounting for a total of 59 percent, 67 percent and 82 percent of Eastern Canadian Iron Ore product revenues, respectively. Refer to Concentration of Customers within Item 1 Business, for additional information regarding our major customers.
North American Coal
We own and operate five metallurgical coal mines located in West Virginia and Alabama and one thermal coal mine located in West Virginia that currently have a rated capacity of 9.4 million tons of production annually. In 2011, we sold a total of 4.2 million tons, compared with 3.3 million tons in 2010 and 1.9 million tons in 2009. Each of our North American coal mines are positioned near rail or barge lines providing access to international shipping ports, which allows for export of our coal production.
North American Coal Customers
North American Coals metallurgical coal production is sold to global integrated steel and coke producers in Europe, Latin America and North America, and its thermal coal production is sold to energy companies and distributors in North America and Europe. Approximately 79 percent of our 2011 production and 72 percent of our 2010 production was committed under one-year contracts. At December 31, 2011, approximately 69 percent of our projected 2012 production has been committed under one-year contracts. North American contract negotiations are largely completed, and international contract negotiations recently have begun. The remaining tonnage primarily is pending price negotiations with our international customers, which typically is dependent on settlements of Australian pricing for metallurgical coal. International customer contracts typically are negotiated on a fiscal year basis extending from April 1 through March 31, whereas customer contracts in North America are typically negotiated on a calendar year basis extending from January 1 through December 31.
International and North American sales represented 54 percent and 46 percent, respectively, of our North American Coal sales in 2011. This compares with 55 percent and 45 percent, respectively, in 2010 and 65 percent and 35 percent, respectively, in 2009. The segments five largest customers together accounted for a total of 58 percent, 62 percent and 75 percent of North American Coal product revenues for the years 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively. Refer to Concentration of Customers within Item 1 Business, for additional information regarding our major customers.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore
Our Asia Pacific Iron Ore operations are located in Western Australia and include our wholly owned Koolyanobbing complex and our 50 percent equity interest in Cockatoo Island. We serve the Asian iron ore markets with direct-shipping fines and lump ore. Production in 2011 was 8.9 million metric tons, compared with 9.3 million metric tons in 2010 and 8.3 million metric tons in 2009.
These two operations supply a total of three direct-shipping export products to Asia via the global seaborne trade market. Koolyanobbing produces a standard lump and fines product. Cockatoo Island produces a single premium fines product. The lump products are fed directly to blast furnaces, while the fines products are used as sinter feed. The variation in the three export product grades reflects the inherent chemical and physical characteristics of the ore bodies mined as well as the supply requirements of the customers.
Koolyanobbing is a collective term for the operating deposits at Koolyanobbing, Mount Jackson and Windarling. There are approximately 60 miles separating the three mining areas. Banded iron formations host the mineralization, which is predominately hematite and goethite. Each deposit is characterized with different chemical and physical attributes, and in order to achieve customer product quality, ore in varying quantities from each deposit must be blended together. In September 2010, our Board of Directors approved a capital project at our Koolyanobbing operation that is expected to increase production output at Koolyanobbing to approximately 11 million metric tons annually. These improvements are expected to be implemented fully by the beginning of the second half of 2012.
Crushing and blending is undertaken at Koolyanobbing, where the crushing and screening plant is located. Once the blended ore has been crushed and screened into a direct lump and fines shipping product, it is transported by rail approximately 360 miles south to the Port of Esperance for shipment to our customers in Asia.
Cockatoo Island is located off the Kimberley coast of Western Australia, approximately 1,200 miles north of Perth and is only accessible by sea and air. Cockatoo Island produces a single high-grade iron ore product known as Cockatoo Island Premium Fines. The deposit is almost pure hematite and contains very few contaminants enabling the shipping grade to be above 66 percent iron. Ore is mined below the sea level on the southern edge of the island. This is facilitated by a sea wall, which enables mining to a depth of approximately 160 feet below sea level. Ore is crushed and screened on-site to the final product sizing. Vessels berth at the island and the fines product is loaded directly to the ship. Cockatoo Island Premium Fines are highly sought in the global marketplace due to their extremely high iron grade and low valueless mineral content. Production at Cockatoo Island ended during 2008 due to construction on Phase 3 of the seawall, and in April 2009, an unanticipated subsidence of the seawall occurred. As a result, production from the mine was delayed and was not expected to resume until the first half of 2011 once the seawall was completed. However, production at Cockatoo Island resumed earlier than expected during the third quarter of 2010 and continued throughout 2011.
In August 2011, we entered into a term sheet with our joint venture partner, HWE Cockatoo Pty Ltd., to sell our beneficial interest in the mining tenements and certain infrastructure of Cockatoo Island to Pluton Resources. The potential transaction is expected to occur at the end of the current stage of mining, Phase 3, which is anticipated to be complete in late 2012. Due diligence has been completed and the definitive sale agreement is being drafted and negotiated. The definitive sale agreement will be conditional on the receipt of regulatory and third-party consents and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore Customers
Asia Pacific Iron Ores production is under contract with steel companies primarily in China and Japan through 2012. Historically, a limited spot market existed for seaborne iron ore as most production has been sold under supply contracts with annual benchmark prices driven from negotiations between the major suppliers and Chinese, Japanese and other Asian steel mills. As discussed above, in 2010, the worlds largest iron ore producers moved away from the annual international benchmark pricing mechanism referenced in our customer supply agreements, resulting in a shift in the industry toward shorter-term pricing arrangements linked to the spot market. These changes caused us to assess and renegotiate the terms of our supply agreements with our customers.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore has five-year term supply agreements with steel producers in China and Japan for the sale of production from its Koolyanobbing operations. Production from Cockatoo Island is sold under short-term supply agreements with steel producers in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan that run to the end of the 2012 production period. The agreements with steel producers in China and Japan account for approximately 75 percent and 25 percent, respectively, of sales volume. Sales volume under the agreements partially is dependent on customer requirements. As a result of the move away from the annual international benchmark pricing mechanism in 2010, we renegotiated the terms of our supply agreements with our Chinese and Japanese Asia Pacific Iron Ore customers, moving to shorter-term pricing mechanisms of various durations based on the average daily spot prices, with certain pricing mechanisms that have a duration of up to a quarter. This change was effective in the first quarter of 2010 for our Chinese customers and the second quarter of 2010 for our Japanese customers. The existing contracts are due to expire at the end of 2012 for our Chinese customers and the end of March 2013 for our Japanese customers. Asia Pacific Iron Ore will be negotiating new contracts in 2012 to cover an extended period.
During 2011, 2010 and 2009, we sold 8.6 million, 9.3 million and 8.5 million metric tons of iron ore, respectively, from our Western Australia mines. No customer comprised more than 10 percent of our consolidated sales in 2011, 2010 or 2009. Asia Pacific Iron Ores five largest customers accounted for approximately 50 percent of the segments sales in 2011, 36 percent in 2010 and 39 percent in 2009.
In addition to our reportable business segments, we are partner to a number of projects, including Amapá in Brazil and Sonoma in Australia, which comprise our Latin American Iron Ore and Asia Pacific Coal operating segments, respectively.
We are a 30 percent minority interest owner in Amapá, which consists of an iron ore deposit, a 120-mile railway connecting the mine location to an existing port facility and 71 hectares of real estate on the banks of the Amazon River, reserved for a loading terminal. Amapá initiated production in late December 2007. The remaining 70 percent of Amapá is owned by Anglo.
During 2011, Amapás annual production totaled 4.8 million metric tons of iron ore fines, compared with 4.0 million metric tons and 2.7 million metric tons in 2010 and 2009, respectively. Anglo has indicated that it expects Amapá will produce and sell 5.7 million metric tons of iron ore fines products in 2012 and 6.1 million metric tons annually once fully operational, which is expected to occur in 2013, based on current capital expenditure levels. The majority of Amapás production is committed under a long-term supply agreement with an operator of an iron oxide pelletizing plant in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
We own a 45 percent economic interest in Sonoma, located in Queensland, Australia. Production and sales totaled approximately 3.5 million and 3.1 million metric tons of coal, respectively, in 2011. This compares with production and sales of approximately 3.5 million metric tons in 2010, and production and sales of approximately 2.8 million and 3.1 million metric tons, respectively, in 2009. The project is expected to produce approximately 3.7 million metric tons of coal annually in 2012 and beyond. Production is expected to include a mix of approximately two-thirds thermal and one-third metallurgical grade coal. In 2009, Sonoma experienced intrusions in the coal seams, which affected raw coal quality, recoverability in the washing process and ultimately the quantity of metallurgical coal in the production mix. As a result, the geological model for Sonoma has been enhanced to reflect the presence of the intrusions and to refine the mining sequence in order to optimize the mix of metallurgical and thermal coal despite being lower than initially planned levels. On a 100 percent basis, Sonoma has economically recoverable reserves of 21.3 million metric tons. Of the 3.5 million metric tons produced in 2011, approximately 3.1 million metric tons were committed under supply agreements. It is expected that approximately 90 percent of the 3.7 million metric tons expected to be produced in 2012 will be committed under supply agreements.
Research and Development
We have been a leader in iron ore mining technology for more than 160 years. We operated some of the first mines on Michigans Marquette Iron Range and pioneered early open-pit and underground mining methods. From the first application of electrical power in Michigans underground mines to the use of todays sophisticated computers and global positioning satellite systems, we have been a leader in the application of new technology to the centuries-old business of mineral extraction. Today, our engineering and technical staffs are engaged in full-time technical support of our operations and improvement of existing products.
We are expanding our leadership position in the industry by focusing on high product quality, technical excellence, superior relationships with our customers and partners and improved operational efficiency through cost-saving initiatives. We operate a fully equipped research and development facility in Ishpeming, Michigan, which supports each of our global operations. Our research and development group is staffed with experienced engineers and scientists and is organized to support the geological interpretation, process mineralogy, mine engineering, mineral processing, pyrometallurgy, advanced process control and analytical service disciplines. Our research and development group also is utilized by iron ore pellet customers for laboratory testing and simulation of blast furnace conditions.
Our exploration program is integral to our growth strategy. We have several projects and potential opportunities to diversify our products, expand our production volumes and develop large-scale ore bodies through early involvement in exploration activities. We achieve this by partnering with junior mining companies, which provide us low-cost entry points for potentially significant reserve additions. Our global exploration group is led by professional geologists who have the knowledge and experience to identify new projects for future development or projects that add significant value to existing operations. We spent approximately $48.4 million on exploration activities in 2011, and we expect cash expenditures of approximately $90 million on exploration activities in 2012, which we anticipate will provide us with opportunities for significant future potential reserve additions globally.
Concentration of Customers
We had one customer that individually accounted for more than 10 percent of our consolidated product revenue in 2011. In 2010 and 2009, we had three and two customers, respectively, that individually accounted for more than 10 percent of our consolidated product revenue. Total revenue from those customers represented approximately $1.4 billion, $1.8 billion, and $0.8 billion of our total consolidated product revenue in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively, and is attributable to our U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore and North American Coal business segments. The following represents sales revenue from each of those customers as a percentage of our total consolidated product revenue, as well as the portion of product sales for U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, and North American Coal that is attributable to each of those customers in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively:
On April 8, 2011, we entered into an Omnibus Agreement with ArcelorMittal USA in order to settle pending arbitrations. The Omnibus Agreement, among other things, amends the Pellet Sale and Purchase Agreement dated December 31, 2002 (the Supply Agreement) covering the Indiana Harbor East facility. Under the terms of the settlement, the parties established specific pricing levels for 2009 and 2010 pellet sales and revised the pricing calculation for the remainder of the term of the Supply Agreement. It was also agreed that a world market-based pricing mechanism would be used beginning in 2011 and through the remainder of the contract term for the Supply Agreement. As a result of this new pricing, both parties agreed to forego future price re-openers.
Prior to the execution of the Omnibus Agreement, we executed on March 19, 2007 an umbrella agreement with ArcelorMittal USA that covered significant price and volume matters under three separate pre-existing iron ore pellet supply agreements for ArcelorMittal USAs Cleveland and Indiana Harbor West, Indiana Harbor East and Weirton facilities. Under the umbrella agreement, ArcelorMittal USA was obligated to purchase specified minimum tonnages of iron ore pellets on an aggregate basis from 2006 through 2010. The umbrella agreement set the minimum annual tonnage for ArcelorMittal USA through 2010, with pricing based on the facility to which the pellets were delivered. The terms of the umbrella agreement contained buy-down provisions, which permitted ArcelorMittal USA to reduce its tonnage purchase obligation each year at a specified price per ton, as well as deferral provisions, which permitted ArcelorMittal USA to defer a portion of its annual tonnage purchase obligation. In addition, ArcelorMittal USA was permitted to nominate tonnage for export out of the U.S. to any facility owned by ArcelorMittal USA, but pricing needed to be agreed to by the parties. This ability to nominate tonnage for export ceased upon the expiration of the umbrella agreement at the end of 2010, and most of our contracts have reverted back to a requirements basis.
Our pellet supply agreements with ArcelorMittal USA that were in place prior to executing the umbrella agreement have again become the basis for supplying pellets to ArcelorMittal USA, which is based on customer requirements, except for the Indiana Harbor East facility, which is based on customer excess requirements. As discussed above, the Omnibus Agreement amended the Supply Agreement covering the Indiana Harbor East facility in April 2011. The following table outlines the expiration dates for each of the respective agreements.
ArcelorMittal USA is a 62.3 percent equity participant in Hibbing and a 21 percent equity partner in Empire with limited rights and obligations. ArcelorMittal was a 28.6 percent participant in Wabush through its subsidiary Dofasco. On February 1, 2010, we acquired the remaining interest in Wabush, including Dofascos 28.6 percent interest.
In 2011, 2010 and 2009, our U.S. Iron Ore pellet sales to ArcelorMittal USA were 8.7 million, 9.8 million and 7.3 million tons, respectively, and our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore pellet sales to ArcelorMittal USA were 0.7 million, 0.6 million and 0.4 million metric tons, respectively.
Our North American Coal supply agreements with ArcelorMittal run through March 31, and are based on an annual tonnage commitment for the 12-month fiscal period. Contracts are priced on a quarterly basis, with pricing generally in line with Australian pricing for metallurgical coal. In 2011, 2010 and 2009, our North American Coal sales to ArcelorMittal were 0.2 million, 0.8 million and 0.6 million tons, respectively.
Algoma is a Canadian steelmaker and a subsidiary of Essar Steel Holdings Limited. We have a 15-year term supply agreement under which we are Algomas sole supplier of iron ore pellets through 2016. Our annual obligation is limited to 4.0 million tons with our option to supply additional pellets. Historically, pricing under the agreement with Algoma has been based on a formula that includes international pellet prices. During 2010, international pellet prices for blast furnace pellets were redefined through arbitration to use an increase in excess of 95 percent over 2009 prices for seaborne blast furnace pellets. The agreement provides that, in 2011 and 2014, either party may request a price re-opener if prices under the agreement with Algoma differ from a specified benchmark price for the year the price re-opener is requested. We sold 3.7 million, 3.4 million and 2.9 million tons to Algoma in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively.
Under the agreement with Severstal, we supply all of the customers blast furnace pellet requirements for its Dearborn, Michigan facility through 2022, subject to specified minimum and maximum requirements in certain years. The terms of the agreement also require supplemental payments to be paid by the customer during the period 2009 through 2013. Pursuant to an amended term sheet entered into on June 19, 2009, the customer exercised the option to defer a portion of the 2009 monthly supplemental payment up to $22.3 million in exchange for interest payments until the deferred amount is repaid in 2013.
On March 31, 2011, Severstal sold its Sparrows Point, Warren and Wheeling facilities to The Renco Group, Inc. The sale of these facilities resulted in the decrease in our sales to this customer as a percentage of our consolidated product revenue in 2011 when compared to 2010 and 2009.
We sold 3.8 million, 5.3 million and 2.3 million tons to Severstal in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively.
Throughout the world, we compete with major and junior mining companies, as well as metals companies, both of which produce steelmaking raw materials, including iron ore and metallurgical coal.
In our U.S. Iron Ore business segment, we primarily sell our product to steel producers with operations in North America. In our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore business segment, we primarily provide our product to the seaborne market for Asian steel producers. We compete directly with steel companies that own interests in iron ore mines, including ArcelorMittal Mines Canada and U.S. Steel Canada Inc., and with major iron ore exporters from Australia.
In the coal industry, our North American Coal business segment competes with many metallurgical coal producers of various sizes, including Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., Patriot Coal Corporation, CONSOL Energy Inc., Arch Coal, Inc., Walter Energy, Inc., Peabody Energy Corp. and other producers located in North America and globally.
A number of factors beyond our control affect the markets in which we sell our coal. Continued demand for our coal and the prices obtained by us primarily depend on the coal consumption patterns of the steel industry in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, as well as the availability, location, cost of transportation and price of
competing coal. Coal consumption patterns are primarily affected by demand, environmental and other governmental regulations, and technological developments. The most important factors on which we compete are delivered price, coal quality characteristics such as heat value, sulfur, ash and moisture content, and reliability of supply. Metallurgical coal, which primarily is used to make coke, a key component in the steelmaking process, generally sells at a premium over steam coal due to its higher quality and value in the steelmaking process.
In our Asia Pacific Iron Ore business segment, we export iron ore products to China and Japan in the world seaborne trade. In the Asia Pacific marketplace, we compete with major iron ore exporters from Australia, Brazil and India. These include Anglo, BHP and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., Rio Tinto plc and Vale, among others.
Sonoma, in which Cliffs owns a 45 percent economic interest, competes with many other global metallurgical and thermal coal producers, including Anglo, Rio Tinto plc, BHP, Teck Resources Limited and Xstrata plc.
Competition in steelmaking raw materials is predicated upon the usual competitive factors of price, availability of supply, product performance, service and transportation cost to the consumer of the raw materials.
As the global steel industry continues to consolidate, a major focus of the consolidation is on the continued life of the integrated steel industrys raw steelmaking operations, including blast furnaces and basic oxygen furnaces that produce raw steel. In addition, other competitive forces have become a large factor in the iron ore business. In particular, electric arc furnaces built by mini-mills, which are steel recyclers, generally produce steel by using scrap steel and reduced-iron products rather than iron ore pellets.
Our mining and exploration activities are subject to various laws and regulations governing the protection of the environment. We conduct our operations in a manner that is protective of public health and the environment and believe our operations are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations in all material respects.
Environmental issues and their management continued to be an important focus at each of our operations throughout 2011. In the construction of our facilities and in their operation, substantial costs have been incurred and will continue to be incurred to avoid undue effect on the environment. Our capital expenditures relating to environmental matters totaled approximately $36 million, $21 million, and $7 million, in 2011, 2010, 2009, respectively. It is estimated that capital expenditures for environmental improvements will total approximately $60 million in 2012. Estimated expenditures in 2012 are comprised of approximately $37 million for projects at our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations, $15 million for projects in our U.S. Iron Ore operations and $8 million in our North American Coal operations. Of the $37 million in capital budgeted for Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations, approximately $23 million is for water treatment and tailings management improvements and fish habitat compensation at the Wabush operations, $10 million is for water treatment improvements at our Bloom Lake operations, and the remaining is for other miscellaneous projects. Of the $15 million in capital budgeted for U.S. Iron Ore operations, approximately $10 million is for air pollution control equipment upgrades at the various mines, with the remaining $5 million for wetland mitigation, water treatment and other miscellaneous projects. The $8 million in capital expenditures budgeted for the North American Coal operations primarily is for water treatment equipment upgrades and miscellaneous projects at Oak Grove and the other mines.
Various governmental bodies are continually promulgating new or amended laws and regulations that affect our company, our customers and our suppliers in many areas, including waste discharge and disposal, the classification of materials and products, air and water discharges, and many other environmental, health and safety matters. Although we believe that our environmental policies and practices are sound and do not expect that the application of any current laws or regulations would reasonably be expected to result in a material adverse effect on our business or financial condition, we cannot predict the collective adverse impact of the expanding body of laws and regulations.
Specifically, there are several notable proposed or potential rulemakings or activities that could potentially have a material adverse impact on our facilities in the future depending on their ultimate outcome: Climate Change and GHG Regulation, Regional Haze, NO2 and SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standards, Cross State Air Pollution Rule, Increased Administrative and Legislative Initiatives related to Coal Mining Activities, the Minnesota Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation, and Selenium Discharge Regulation.
Climate Change and GHG Regulation. With the complexities and uncertainties associated with the U.S. and global navigation of the climate change issue as a whole, one of our significant risks for the future is mandatory carbon legislation. Policymakers are in the design process of carbon regulation at the state, regional, national and international levels. The current regulatory patchwork of carbon compliance schemes present a challenge for multi-facility entities to identify their near-term risks. Amplifying the uncertainty, the dynamic forward outlook for carbon regulation presents a challenge to large industrial companies to assess the long-term net impacts of carbon compliance costs on their operations. Our exposure on this issue includes both the direct and indirect financial risks associated with the regulation of GHG emissions, as well as potential physical risks associated with climate change. We are continuing to review the physical risks related to climate change utilizing a formal risk management process.
Internationally, mechanisms to reduce emissions are being implemented in various countries, with differing designs and stringency, according to resources, economic structure and politics. We expect that momentum to extend carbon regulation following the expiration in 2012 of the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol will continue. Australia, Canada and Brazil are all signatories to the Kyoto Protocol. As such, our facilities in each of these countries will be impacted by the Kyoto Protocol, but in varying degrees according to the mechanisms each country establishes for compliance and each countrys commitment to reducing emissions. Australia and Canada are considered Annex 1 countries, meaning that they are obligated to reduce their emissions under the Protocol. In contrast, Brazil is not an Annex 1 country and is, therefore, not currently obligated to reduce its GHG emissions. The impact of the Kyoto Protocol on our Canadian operations has recently been brought into question by the December 2011 announcement by the Canadian Environment Minister that Canada would withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol and, furthermore, that Canada would repeal its Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.
In November 2011, legislation for a carbon tax was passed by the Australian Parliament. The legislation will take effect beginning in July 2012. The carbon tax will apply a fixed price of A$23 per metric ton of CO2 emissions, with a transition to an emissions trading scheme in 2015 following a fixed-price period of three years. The price will rise by 2.5 percent a year during the fixed-price period. The direct impact of the carbon tax on Cliffs Asia Pacific operations primarily will occur through increased fuel costs. Based on an expected cost, at commencement, the tax is estimated to result in an increase in direct costs of approximately A$5 million per year.
On December 15, 2011, Quebec issued final GHG cap-and-trade regulation based on the Western Climate Initiative guidelines which become effective January 1, 2013. The Quebec GHG emission reduction objective is to reduce GHG emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 (Phase 1). The mining and utility sectors, among others, are sectors included in the cap-and-trade program. The Quebec framework has provisions for free allocations for our sector, which will minimize the impact to our business. The estimated direct impact to Cliffs Quebec operations begin at $1 million per year in 2013 and escalate to an estimated $3 million per year in 2020 (Phase 1 of the GHG cap-and-trade program). Additional indirect pass-through financial impacts related to energy rates and transportation fuel consumption are estimated to increase our exposure, however, the overall impact is not anticipated to have a material impact on our business.
In the U.S., federal carbon regulation potentially presents a significantly greater impact to our operations. To date, the U.S. has not implemented regulated carbon constraints. In the absence of comprehensive federal carbon regulation, numerous state and regional regulatory initiatives are under development or are becoming effective, thereby creating a disjointed approach to carbon control.
Furthermore, on September 22, 2009, the EPA issued a final GHG Reporting Rule requiring the mandatory reporting of annual GHG emissions from our U.S. iron and coal mining facilities. Sources covered by the rule
were required to begin collecting emission data by no later than January 1, 2010. The first annual emission report was submitted to the EPA in September 2011 and will be reported annually. As a founding member of TCR, we have reported our emissions to TCR and published GHG emission information within our Sustainability Reports, following the reporting protocols established by the Global Reporting Initiative.
As an energy-intensive business, our GHG emissions inventory captures a broad range of emissions sources, such as iron ore furnaces and kilns, coal thermal driers, diesel mining equipment and a wholly owned power generation plant, among others. As such, our most significant regulatory risks are: (1) the costs associated with on-site emissions levels and (2) the costs passed through to us from power generators and distillate fuel suppliers.
We believe our exposure can be reduced substantially by numerous factors, including currently contemplated regulatory flexibility mechanisms, such as allowance allocations, fixed process emissions exemptions, offsets, and international provisions; emissions reduction opportunities, including energy efficiency, biofuels, fuel flexibility and methane reduction; and business opportunities associated with new products and technology.
We have proactively worked to develop a comprehensive, enterprise-wide GHG management strategy aimed at considering all significant aspects associated with GHG initiatives to effectively plan for and manage climate change issues, including the risks and opportunities as they relate to the environment, stakeholders, including shareholders and the public, legislative and regulatory developments, operations, products and markets.
Regional Haze. In June 2005, the EPA finalized amendments to its regional haze rules. The rules require states to establish goals and emission reduction strategies for improving visibility in all Class I national parks and wilderness areas. Among the states with Class I areas are Michigan, Minnesota, Alabama and West Virginia where we currently own and manage mining operations. The first phase of the regional haze rule (2008-2018) requires analysis and installation of BART on eligible emission sources and incorporation of BART and associated emission limits into state implementation plans.
Late in 2011, MPCA published a draft supplement to the Regional Haze SIP, which was on public notice until January 2012 and goes before the MPCA Board in March 2012. The EPA must now review and formally approve the Regional Haze SIP. If approved, these requirements will become effective five years after approval.
The supplemental Regional Haze SIP recently put on notice by MPCA also raises questions for the Hibbing and United Taconite facilities. Despite information provided by Hibbing and United Taconite, MPCA proposed NOx emissions limits for these facilities, which past performance testing would show as unachievable. Retrofit NOx controls are not technically and economically available for existing taconite furnaces according to BART criteria. Cliffs will be providing further comments to the MPCA on limits during the public notice period and anticipates resolution of the matter without having to appeal the rule.
NO2 and SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standards. During the first half of 2010, the EPA promulgated rules that require states to use a combination of air quality monitoring and computer modeling to determine areas of each state that are in attainment with new NO2 and SO2 standards (attainment areas) and those areas that are not in attainment with such standards (nonattainment areas). During the third quarter of 2011, the EPA issued guidance to the regulated community on conducting refined air quality dispersion modeling and implementing the new NO2 and SO2 standards. The NO2 and SO2 standards have been challenged by various large industry groups. Accordingly, at this time, we are unable to predict the final impact of these standards. During June 2011, our Minnesota iron ore mining operations received a request from the MPCA to develop modeling and compliance plans and timelines by which each facility will demonstrate compliance with present and proposed NAAQS as well as Regional Haze requirements outlined in the State SIP. Compliance must be achieved by June 30, 2017. Cliffs continues to assess options by which to achieve compliance.
Cross State Air Pollution Rule. On July 6, 2011, the EPA promulgated the CSAPR. This rule identifies and limits emissions of SO2 and NOx from electric generating units in 27 states. Silver Bay Power is subject to a SO2 and NOx emission cap under this rule, which is designed to assist downwind states in attaining and maintaining compliance with NAAQS for fine particulate matter and ozone. The CSAPR established a Federal Implementation Plan that requires emission reductions in phases, which commence January 1, 2012, and January 1, 2014. Silver Bay Power must meet the allocations for its emissions set by the CSAPR through
emission reductions achieved by installing additional controls or fuel switching and/or acquiring additional allocations through an allowance trading program authorized by the CSAPR. Although the D.C. Circuit Court stayed the rule in December 2011, we have analyzed the rule and identified viable options available to Silver Bay Power to minimize financial impacts from the CSAPR once the Court reaches a decision and lifts the stay. The potential direct impact from CSAPR and other new environmental regulations applicable to Silver Bay Power have been assessed and determined not to be material. We will be implementing the strategic plan to minimize the economic impact to Silver Bay Power over the next five years.
Increased Administrative and Legislative Initiatives Related to Coal Mining Activities. Although the focus of significantly increased government activity related to coal mining in the U.S. is generally targeted at eliminating or minimizing the adverse environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining practices, these initiatives have the potential to impact all types of coal operations, including subsurface longwall mining typically deployed for recovering metallurgical coal. Specifically, the coordinated efforts by various federal agencies to minimize adverse environmental consequences of mountaintop mining have effectively stopped issuance of new permits required by most mining projects in Appalachia. Due to the developing nature of these initiatives and their potential to disrupt even routine necessary mining and water permit practices in the coal industry, we are unable to predict whether these initiatives could have a material effect on our coal operations in the future. We are working closely with our trade associations to monitor the various rulemaking developments in an effort to enable us to develop viable strategies to minimize the financial impact to the business.
Mercury TMDL and Minnesota Taconite Mercury Reduction Strategy. Mercury TMDL regulations are contained in the U.S. Federal Clean Water Act. As a part of Minnesotas Mercury TMDL Implementation Plan, in cooperation with the MPCA, the taconite industry developed a Taconite Mercury Reduction Strategy and signed a voluntary agreement to effectuate its terms. The strategy includes a 75 percent reduction of mercury air emissions from Minnesota pellet plants by 2025 as a target. It recognizes that mercury emission control technology currently does not exist and will be pursued through a research effort. Any developed technology must be economically feasible, not impact pellet quality and not cause excessive corrosion in pellet furnaces, associated duct work and existing wet scrubbers on the furnaces.
According to the voluntary agreement, the mines must proceed with medium- and long-term testing of possible technologies beginning in 2010. Initial testing will be completed on one straight-grate and one grate-kiln furnace among the mines. If technically and economically feasible, developed mercury emission control technology must then be installed on taconite furnaces by 2025. For us, the requirements in the voluntary agreement will apply to our United Taconite and Hibbing facilities. At this point in time, we are unable to predict the potential impacts of the Taconite Mercury Reduction Strategy, as it is just in its research phase with no proven technology yet identified. However, a number of research projects commenced during 2011 as the industry continues to assess options for reduction.
Selenium Discharge Regulation. In West Virginia, new selenium discharge limits became effective on April 5, 2010. State legislation was passed that gives the West Virginia DEP the authority to extend the deadline for facilities to comply with new selenium discharge limits to July 1, 2012, based on application and approval of the extension. We have successfully implemented solutions that manage the discharge of selenium in our coal operations. We do not believe this issue is likely to result in material impacts to North American Coal.
In Michigan, the MDEQ issued a renewed NPDES permit for our Empire Mine in December 2011 and is scheduled to renew the Tilden NPDES permit in 2012. Our Michigan operations at Empire and Tilden are developing compliance strategies to meet new selenium process water limits according to the permit conditions. Empire and Tilden submitted the Selenium Storm Water Management Plan to the MDEQ on December 22, 2011. The Selenium Storm Water Management Plan outlines the activities that will be undertaken from 2011 to 2015 to address selenium in storm water discharges from our Michigan operations. The activities include the evaluation of structural controls, non-structural controls, site specific standards and evaluation of potential impacts to groundwater. Preliminary selenium treatability results from studies in 2011 were positive for the utilization of treatment systems. An initial estimate for full scale implementation of treatment systems as structural selenium controls at both facilities is $35 million dollars and is expected to be expended between 2012 and 2015.
Clean Water Act Section 404. In the U.S., Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct mines and associated projects, such as freshwater impoundments and refuse disposal fills, in areas that affect jurisdictional waters. Any coal mining activity requiring both a Section 404 permit and a SMCRA permit in the Appalachian region currently undergoes an enhanced review from the Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA and the Office of Surface Mining. With the acquisition of the CLCC properties during the third quarter of 2010, we obtained a development surface coal mine project, the Toney Fork No. 3, which is subject to the enhanced review process adopted by federal agencies in 2009 for Section 404 permitting. There are currently two proposed valley fills in the Toney Fork No. 3 plan; therefore, an extensive review process can be expected. We expect on-going negotiations with the EPA will conclude with the issuance of the required Section 404 permit well before construction of the mine is scheduled. The other development surface mine project acquired through the acquisition of CLCC, Toney Fork West, does not require Section 404 permitting. The renewal date for the existing Toney Fork No. 2 permit is May 28, 2015.
For additional information on our environmental matters, refer to Item 3. Legal Proceedings and NOTE 9 ENVIRONMENTAL AND MINE CLOSURE OBLIGATIONS in Item 8.
WEPCO is the sole supplier of electric power to our Empire and Tilden mines. WEPCO currently provides 300 megawatts of electricity to Empire and Tilden at rates that are regulated by the MPSC. The Empire and Tilden mines are subject to changes in WEPCOs rates, such as base interim rate changes that WEPCO may self-implement and final rate changes that are approved by the MPSC in response to applications filed by WEPCO. These procedures have resulted in several rate increases since 2008, when Empire and Tildens special contracts for electric service with WEPCO expired. Additionally, Empire and Tilden are subject to frequent changes in WEPCOs power supply adjustment factor. For additional information on the Empire and Tilden rate cases with WEPCO, refer to Item 3. Legal Proceedings.
Electric power for the Hibbing and United Taconite mines is supplied by MP. On September 16, 2008, the mines finalized agreements with terms from November 1, 2008 through December 31, 2015. The agreements were approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in 2009.
Silver Bay Power Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of ours, with a 115 megawatt power plant, provides the majority of Northshores energy requirements. Silver Bay Power had an interconnection agreement with MP for backup power. Silver Bay Power entered into an agreement to sell 40 megawatts of excess power capacity to Xcel Energy under a contract that expired in 2011. In March 2008, Northshore reactivated one of its furnaces, resulting in a shortage of electrical power of approximately 10 megawatts. As a result, supplemental electric power is purchased by Northshore from MP under an agreement that is renewable yearly with one-year termination notice required. The contract expired on June 30, 2011, which coincided with the expiration of Silver Bay Powers 40 megawatt sales agreement with Xcel Energy.
Wabush has a 20-year agreement with Newfoundland Power, which continues until December 31, 2014. This agreement allows an interchange of water rights in return for the power needs for Wabushs mining operations. The Wabush pelletizing operations and Bloom Lake operations in Quebec are served by Quebec Hydro, which provides power under non-negotiated rates that are set on an annual basis.
The Oak Grove mine and Concord Preparation Plant are supplied electrical power by Alabama Power under a five-year contract that continues in effect until terminated by either party providing written notice to the other in accordance with applicable rules, regulations and rate schedules. Rates of the contract are subject to change during the term of the contract as regulated by the Alabama Public Service Commission.
Electrical power to the Pinnacle Complex is supplied by the Appalachian Power Company under two contracts. The electrical power to the Green Ridge No. 1 mine was also supplied by the Appalachian Power Company through its closure date in February 2010. The Indian Creek contract was revised in 2008 to include service under Appalachian Powers lower cost Large Capacity Power Primary Schedule. On January 15, 2010, we entered into an amended agreement with Appalachian Power related to the Indian Creek contract that resulted
in Pinnacle receiving reduced electrical power rates under the American Electric Powers Large Capacity Power Transmission Code 389 tariff for a contract capacity of 15 megawatts. The Pinnacle Creek contract was not affected. The next renewal dates are January 15, 2013 for Indian Creek and July 4, 2012 for Pinnacle Creek. Both contracts specify the applicable rate schedule, minimum monthly charge and power capacity furnished. Rates, terms and conditions of the contracts are subject to the approval of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia.
CLCC is also supplied electrical power by Appalachian Power under two contracts. The Buffalo Creek Road contract was entered into on May 4, 2010 for a two-year period and is for a supply of 5,800 kilowatts under American Electric Powers Large Capacity Power Code 388 tariff. The Craneco Aly contract began on February 4, 2011 for a one-year period and supplies 2,300 kilowatts of electrical power under the American Electric Powers Large Capacity Power Code 388. Both contracts remain in effect until twelve months written notice is given by either party of its intent to terminate the contract.
Koolyanobbing and its associated satellite mines draw power from independent diesel fueled power stations and generators. Temporary diesel power generation capacity has been installed at the Koolyanobbing operations, allowing sufficient time for a detailed investigation into the viability of long-term options such as connecting into the Western Australian South West Interconnected System or provision of natural gas or dual fuel (natural gas and diesel) generating capacity. These options are not economic for the satellite mines, which will continue being powered by diesel generators.
Electrical supply on Cockatoo Island is diesel generated. The powerhouse adjacent to the processing plant powers the shiploader, fuel farm and the processing plant. The workshop and administration office is powered by a separate generator.
We have contracts providing for the transport of natural gas for our U.S. and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations, as well as our North American Coal operations. At U.S. Iron Ore, the Empire and Tilden mines have the capability of burning natural gas, coal, or to a lesser extent, oil. The Hibbing and Northshore mines have the capability to burn natural gas and oil. The United Taconite mine has the ability to burn coal, natural gas and coke breeze. Although all of the U.S. iron ore mines have the capability of burning natural gas, the pelletizing operations for the U.S. iron ore mines utilize alternate fuels when practicable. At Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, the Wabush mine has the capability to burn oil and coke breeze and the Bloom Lake mine has the ability to burn No. 2 heating oil. Our North American Coal operations use natural gas and coal to fire thermal dryers at the Pinnacle Complex and Oak Grove mines as well as the CLCC operations.
As of December 31, 2011, we had a total of 7,404 employees.
As of December 31, 2011, approximately 84.1 percent of our U.S. Iron Ore hourly employees, approximately 78.0 percent of our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore hourly employees and approximately 63.4 percent of our North American Coal hourly employees were covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Hourly employees at our Michigan and Minnesota iron ore mining operations, excluding Northshore, are represented by the USW. The four-year labor agreements, effective September 1, 2008 through August 31, 2012, cover approximately 2,400 USW-represented workers at our Empire and Tilden mines in Michigan, and our United Taconite and Hibbing mines in Minnesota. We expect to begin negotiations with the USW with respect to these agreements in the summer of 2012.
Hourly employees at our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations, excluding Bloom Lake, also are represented by the USW. The five-year labor agreement for our Wabush mine, effective March 1, 2009 through February 28, 2014, provides for a 15 percent increase in labor costs over the term of the agreement, inclusive of benefits.
Hourly employees at our Lake Superior and Ishpeming railroads are represented by seven unions covering approximately 120 employees. These employees negotiate under the Railway Labor Act and the moratorium on bargaining expired on December 31, 2009. We have currently reached labor agreements with four of these unions and we are continuing to renegotiate with the other three unions. Bargaining with these unions normally proceeds long after the moratorium on bargaining expires. Work stoppages cannot occur until the parties have mediated under the Railway Labor Act and that process has not occurred.
Hourly production and maintenance employees at our Pinnacle Complex and Oak Grove mines are represented by the UMWA. We entered into collective bargaining agreements with the UMWA effective July 1, 2011 that expire on December 31, 2016. Those collective bargaining agreements are identical in all material respects to the NBCWA of 2011 between the UMWA and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. Employees at our CLCC operations are not represented under collective bargaining agreements.
Employees at our Asia Pacific, Corporate & Support Services, Latin American Iron Ore and Ferroalloys operations are not represented under collective bargaining agreements.
Safe production is our primary core value. Our U.S. Iron Ore segment had a total reportable incident rate, as defined by MSHA, of 2.22 in 2011, compared with the prior year result of 2.16. Our U.S. Iron Ore segment finished the year with a 24 percent improvement in the total severity rate from 2010. Our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore segment had a total reportable incident rate, as defined by MSHA, of 4.58 in 2011, compared with the prior year result of 4.79. This rate includes Bloom Lake since the date of acquisition. Our North American Coal operations had a total reportable incident rate of 4.28 compared with a rate of 6.49 in 2010 and recorded a 37 percent improvement in total severity rates from the prior year. We have developed close collaboration between our North American segments to drive further improvements in our safety results.
At our Asia Pacific Iron Ore operations, the total reportable incident rate for 2011 was 2.24, compared with the 2010 result of 1.89. Asia Pacific Iron Ores safety statistics include employees and contractors.
Our headquarters are located at 200 Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio 44114-2315, and our telephone number is (216) 694-5700. We are subject to the reporting requirements of the Exchange Act and its rules and regulations. The Exchange Act requires us to file reports, proxy statements and other information with the SEC. Copies of these reports and other information can be read and copied at:
SEC Public Reference Room
100 F Street N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20549
Information on the operation of the Public Reference Room may be obtained by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330.
The SEC maintains a website that contains reports, proxy statements and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC. These materials may be obtained electronically by accessing the SECs home page at www.sec.gov.
We use our website, www.cliffsnaturalresources.com, as a channel for routine distribution of important information, including news releases, investor presentations and financial information. We also make available, free of charge on our website, our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and amendments to these reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file these documents with, or furnish them to, the SEC. These documents are posted on our website at www.cliffsnaturalresources.com under Investors. In addition, our website allows investors and other interested persons to sign up to receive automatic email alerts when we post news releases and financial information on our website.
We also make available, free of charge on our website, the charters of the Audit Committee, Governance and Nominating Committee, Compensation and Organization Committee and Strategy and Sustainability Committee (formerly known as the Strategy and Operations Committee) as well as the Corporate Governance Guidelines and the Code of Business Conduct & Ethics adopted by our Board of Directors. These documents are posted on our website at www.cliffsnaturalresources.com under Investors and may be found by selecting the Corporate Governance link.
References to our website or the SECs website do not constitute incorporation by reference of the information contained on such websites, and such information is not part of this Form 10-K.
Copies of the above-referenced information are also available, free of charge, by calling (216) 694-5700 or upon written request to:
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
200 Public Square
Cleveland, OH 44114-2315
EXECUTIVE OFFICERS OF THE REGISTRANT
Set forth below are: (1) the names and ages of all executive officers of the Company at February 16, 2012, (2) all positions with the Company presently held by each such person and (3) the positions held by, and principal areas of responsibility of, each such person during the last five years.
There is no family relationship between any of our executive officers, or between any of our executive officers and any of our directors. Officers are elected to serve until successors have been elected. All of the above named officers were elected effective on the dates listed below for each such officer.
Joseph A. Carrabba has been Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cliffs since May 8, 2007. Mr. Carrabba served as Cliffs President and Chief Executive Officer from September 2006 through May 8, 2007 and as Cliffs President and Chief Operating Officer from May 2005 to September 2006. Mr. Carrabba previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Diavik Diamond Mines, Inc. from April 2003 to May 2005, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto plc, an international mining group. Mr. Carrabba is a Director of KeyCorp and Newmont Mining Corporation.
Laurie Brlas has been Executive Vice President, Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer of Cliffs since July 2010. Ms. Brlas previously served as Executive Vice President Chief Financial Officer of Cliffs from March 2008 through July 2010 and as Cliffs Senior Vice President Chief Financial Officer from October 2007 through March 2008. From December 2006 to October 2007, Ms. Brlas served as Senior Vice President Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Cliffs. From April 2000 to December 2006, Ms. Brlas was Senior Vice President Chief Financial Officer of STERIS Corporation, a global manufacturer and supplier of infection prevention, contamination control, decontamination, microbial reduction, and surgical and critical care support products, technologies and services. Ms. Brlas is a Director of Perrigo Company.
Donald J. Gallagher has been Executive Vice President and President Global Commercial since January 2011. Mr. Gallagher served as President, North American Business Unit of Cliffs from November 2007 to January 2011. From December 2006 to November 2007, Mr. Gallagher served as President, North American Iron Ore. From July 2006 to December 2006, Mr. Gallagher served as President, North American Iron Ore, and Acting Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Cliffs. From May 2005 to July 2006, Mr. Gallagher was Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Cliffs. From July 2003 to May 2005, Mr. Gallagher served as Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of Cliffs.
Duncan P. Price has been Executive Vice President and President Global Operations of Cliffs since January 2011. Mr. Price served as Senior Vice President Managing Director of Asia Pacific Iron Ore from
March 2009 to January 2011, and Mr. Price served as Chief Executive Officer, Portman Limited from 2007 to 2009. Prior to joining Cliffs, Mr. Price served as Project Director at Sinosteel/Midwest Joint Venture, an iron ore joint venture formed by Sinosteel Corporation, a major supplier of raw materials to Chinese steel mills, and Midwest Corporation Limited, an Australian-based iron ore mining company, to develop the Koolanooka deposit and the Weld Range in Western Australia from 2006 to 2007 and Managing Director at Rio Tinto Group, an international mining company, from 1996 to 2006.
P. Kelly Tompkins has served as Executive Vice President, Legal, Government Affairs and Sustainability and Chief Legal Officer of Cliffs since January 2011. Mr. Tompkins joined Cliffs in May of 2010 as Executive Vice President Legal, Government Affairs and Sustainability until January 2011. Prior to joining Cliffs, Mr. Tompkins was Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for RPM International Inc., a specialty coatings and sealants manufacturer, from June 2008 to May 2010 and served as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer from October 2006 to May 2010. Mr. Tompkins served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel for RPM International Inc. from October 2002 to October 2006.
Clifford Smith has served as Senior Vice President, Global Business Development of Cliffs since January 2011. He has served as Vice President, Latin American Operations from September 2009 to January 2011. From October 2006 to September 2009, Mr. Smith served as General Manager Business Development of Cliffs. Mr. Smith served as Vice President and General Manager of Cliffs Tilden Mine, Empire Mine, and Lake Superior and Ishpeming railroad from April 2004 to September 2006. Prior to joining Cliffs, Mr. Smith held mine management positions with Asarco, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, Mexicos largest mining company, and Southern Peru Copper Corporation, a copper mining company.
William A. Brake, Jr. has served as Executive Vice President, Global Metallics since January 2011. Mr. Brake served as Cliffs Executive Vice President, Strategic Alternatives and Chief Technology Officer from July 2010 to January 2011 and as Executive Vice President, Human and Technical Resources from November 2008 to July 2010. From April 2007 until November 2008, Mr. Brake served as Executive Vice President, Cliffs Metallics and Chief Technical Officer. From March 2005 to August 2006, Mr. Brake served in several management positions with Mittal Steel USA, an international steel and processing and manufacturing company, most recently as Executive Vice President Operations. From March 2003 to March 2005, Mr. Brake was Vice President and General Manager of International Steel Group, an international steel processing and manufacturing company.
David B. Blake has served as Senior Vice President, Operations, North American Iron Ore since March 2009. Mr. Blake served as Vice President, Operations North American Iron Ore from November 2007 to March 2009 and as General Manager, Michigan Operations from November 2005 to November 2007. Prior to joining Cliffs, Mr. Blake served as Production Manager for Diavik Diamond Mines, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto plc, an international mining group, from October 2003 to November 2005.
William C. Boor has served as Senior Vice President, Global Ferroalloys since January 2011. Mr. Boor served as Senior Vice President, President Ferroalloys from May 2010 to January 2011. Prior to that time, Mr. Boor served as Senior Vice President, Business Development of Cliffs from May 2007 to May 2010. Mr. Boor served as Executive Vice President Strategy and Development at American Gypsum Co. (a subsidiary of Eagle Materials Inc.), a manufacturer of building materials, from February 2005 to April 2007. Mr. Boor is a Director of Cavco Industries, Inc.
Terrence R. Mee has served as Senior Vice President, Global Iron Ore and Metallic Sales since January 2011. From September 2007 to January 2011, Mr. Mee served as Vice President, Sales and Transportation for the North American business unit and as General Manager Sales and Traffic from August 2003 to September 2007.
James Michaud has served as Senior Vice President, Human Resources since January 2011 and was Vice President, Human Resources from September 2010 to January 2011. Prior to joining Cliffs, Mr. Michaud was a partner in a Chicago-based human resources consulting company, Laurus Strategies, from February 2009 to September 2010. From March 2006 to October 2008, Mr. Michaud held the position of Vice President Human Resources Americas with ArcelorMittal, a steel company engaged in the production and marketing of finished and semi-finished carbon steel and stainless steel products worldwide.
Terrance M. Paradie has served as Senior Vice President, Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer since January 2011 and served as Vice President, Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer of Cliffs from July 2009 to January 2011. Mr. Paradie served as Cliffs Vice President Corporate Controller from October 2007 through July 2009. Prior to joining Cliffs, Mr. Paradie worked for international accounting and consulting firm KPMG LLP since 1992 in a variety of roles, most recently as an audit partner.
Steven M. Raguz has served as Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Treasurer since January 2011. Mr. Raguz served as Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Treasurer from August 2010 to January 2011 and as Vice President, Corporate Planning and Treasurer from October 2007 to August 2010, and Vice President, Financial Planning and Strategy Analysis from March 2007 to October 2007. Prior to joining Cliffs, Mr. Raguz was Senior Director, Financial Planning and Analysis of STERIS Corporation.
Duke D. Vetor has served as Senior Vice President, Global Operations Services since July 2011. From November 2007 to July 2011, he served as Senior Vice President, North American Coal of Cliffs and from July 2006 to November 2007, he served as Vice President Operations North American Iron Ore of Cliffs. Mr. Vetor was General Manager of Safety and Operations Improvement of Cliffs from December 2005 to July 2006. From 2003 to November 2005, Mr. Vetor served as Vice President Operations of Diavik Diamond Mines, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto plc, an international mining group.
David Webb has served as Senior Vice President, Global Coal since joining Cliffs in July 2011. Prior to joining Cliffs, Mr. Webb served as Vice President and General Manager of Mid-West Operations for Patriot Coal Corp., a producer of thermal and metallurgical coal, from 2007 to June 2011. Mr. Webb also previously served in director-level positions for Peabody Energy and Freeman United Corp., both coal companies.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
Uncertainty or weaknesses in global economic conditions and reduced economic growth in China could adversely affect our business.
The world prices of iron ore and coal are influenced strongly by international demand and global economic conditions. Uncertainties or weaknesses in global economic conditions, including the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in Europe, could adversely affect our business and negatively impact our financial results. In addition, the current level of international demand for raw materials used in steel production is driven largely by rapid industrial growth in China. If the economic growth rate in China slows for an extended period of time, less steel would be used in construction and manufacturing. If the economic growth rate in China slows for an extended period of time, or if another global economic downturn were to occur, we would likely see decreased demand for our products and decreased prices, resulting in lower revenue levels and decreasing margins. We are not able to predict whether the global economic conditions will continue or worsen and the impact it may have on our operations and the industry in general going forward.
Negative economic conditions may adversely impact the ability of our customers to meet their obligations to us on a timely basis or at all.
Although we have contractual commitments for sales in our U.S. Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore business for 2012 and beyond, the uncertainty in global economic conditions may adversely impact the ability of our customers to meet their obligations. As a result of economic and pricing volatility, we are in continual discussions with our customers regarding our supply agreements. These discussions may result in the modification of our supply agreements. Any modifications to our supply agreements could adversely impact our sales, margins, profitability and cash flows. These discussions or actions by our customers could also result in contractual disputes, which could ultimately require arbitration or litigation, either of which could be time consuming and costly. Any such disputes could adversely impact our sales, margins, profitability and cash flows.
A substantial majority of our sales are made under term supply agreements to a limited number of customers that are subject to changing international pricing conditions and that could negatively affect the stability and profitability of our operations.
In 2011, a majority of our U.S. Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore sales, the majority of our North American Coal sales, and virtually all of our Asia Pacific Iron Ore sales were made under term supply agreements to a limited number of customers. In 2011, five customers together accounted for approximately 64 percent of our U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore and North America coal sales revenues (representing more than 48 percent of our consolidated revenues). For North American Coal, prices are typically agreed upon for a twelve-month period and are typically adjusted each year. Our Asia Pacific Iron Ore contracts expire in 2012. Our U.S. Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore contracts have an average remaining duration of four years. We cannot be certain that we will be able to renew or replace existing term supply agreements at the same volume levels, prices or with similar profit margins when they expire. A loss of sales to our existing customers could have a substantial negative impact on our sales, margins and profitability.
Our U.S. Iron Ore term supply agreements contain a number of price adjustment provisions, or price escalators, including adjustments based on general industrial inflation rates, the price of steel and the international price of iron ore pellets, among other factors, that allow us to adjust the prices under those agreements generally on an annual basis. Several of our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore customers have multi-year pricing arrangements that contain pricing adjustments that reference certain published market prices for iron ore. During the first quarter of 2010, the worlds largest iron ore producers moved away from the annual international benchmark pricing mechanism in favor of a shorter-term, more flexible pricing system. The change in the international pricing system has, in most instances, required that our sales contracts be modified to take into account the new international pricing methodology. We finalized shorter-term pricing arrangements with our Asia Pacific Iron Ore customers. We reached final pricing settlements with a majority of our U.S. Iron Ore customers through the end of 2011 for the 2011 contract year. However, in some cases we are still working to revise components of the pricing calculations referenced within our supply agreements to incorporate new pricing mechanisms as a result of the changes to historical benchmark pricing.
Any defects in title of leasehold interests in our properties could limit our ability to mine these properties or could result in significant unanticipated costs.
We conduct a significant part of our mining operations on properties that we lease. These leases were entered into over a period of many years by certain of our predecessors and title to our leased properties and mineral rights may not be thoroughly verified until a permit to mine the property is obtained. Our right to mine some of our proven and probable ore reserves may be materially adversely affected if there were defects in title or boundaries. In order to obtain leases or mining contracts to conduct our mining operations on property where these defects exist, we may in the future have to incur unanticipated costs, which could adversely affect our profitability.
Coal mining is complex due to geological characteristics of the region.
The geological characteristics of coal reserves, such as depth of overburden and coal seam thickness, make them complex and costly to mine. As mines become depleted, replacement reserves may not be available when required or, if available, may not be capable of being mined at costs comparable to those characteristic of the depleting mines, and in turn, decisions to defer mine development activities may adversely impact our ability to substantially increase future coal production. These factors could materially adversely affect our mining operations and cost structures, which could adversely affect our sales, profitability and cash flows.
Capacity expansions within the mining industry could lead to lower global iron ore and coal prices or impact our production.
The increased demand for iron ore and coal, particularly from China, has resulted in the major iron ore and metallurgical coal suppliers announcing plans to increase their capacity. In the current economic environment,
any increase in our competitors capacity could result in excess supply of iron ore and coal, resulting in increased downward pressure on prices. A decrease in pricing due to this issue would impact adversely our sales, margins and profitability.
If steelmakers use methods other than blast furnace production to produce steel, or if their blast furnaces shut down or otherwise reduce production, the demand for our iron ore and coal products may decrease.
Demand for our iron ore and coal products is determined by the operating rates for the blast furnaces of steel companies. However, not all finished steel is produced by blast furnaces; finished steel also may be produced by other methods that do not require iron ore products. For example, steel mini-mills, which are steel recyclers, generally primarily produce steel by using scrap steel and other iron products, not iron ore pellets, in their electric furnaces. Production of steel by steel mini-mills was approximately 60 percent of North American total finished steel production in 2011. North American steel producers also can produce steel using imported iron ore or semi-finished steel products, which eliminates the need for domestic iron ore. Environmental restrictions on the use of blast furnaces also may reduce our customers use of their blast furnaces. Maintenance of blast furnaces may require substantial capital expenditures. Our customers may choose not to maintain, or may not have the resources necessary to maintain, their blast furnaces. If our customers use methods to produce steel that do not use iron ore and coal products, demand for our iron ore and coal products will decrease, which would affect adversely our sales, margins and profitability.
The availability of capital for exploration, acquisitions and mine development may be limited.
We expect to grow our business and presence as an international mining company by continuing to expand both geographically and through the minerals that we mine and market. To execute on this strategy, we will need to have access to the capital markets to finance exploration, acquisitions and development of mining properties. During the global economic crisis, access to capital to finance new projects and acquisitions was extremely limited. We cannot predict the general availability or accessibility of capital to finance such projects in the future. If we are unable to continue to access the capital markets, our ability to execute on our growth strategy will be impacted negatively.
Our ability to collect payments from our customers depends on their creditworthiness.
Our ability to receive payment for products sold and delivered to our customers depends on the creditworthiness of our customers. With respect to our Asia Pacific and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore business units and North American Coal business unit, payment typically is received as the products are shipped and much of the product is secured by bank letters of credit. However, in our U.S. Iron Ore business unit, generally, we deliver iron ore products to our customers facilities in advance of payment for those products. Although title and risk of loss with respect to U.S. Iron Ore products does not pass to the customer until payment for the pellets is received, there is typically a period of time in which pellets, for which we have reserved title, are within our customers control. Consolidations in some of the industries in which our customers operate have created larger customers. These factors have caused some customers to be less profitable and increased our exposure to credit risk. Current credit markets remain highly volatile, and some of our customers are highly leveraged. A significant adverse change in the financial and/or credit position of a customer could require us to assume greater credit risk relating to that customer and could limit our ability to collect receivables. Failure to receive payment from our customers for products that we have delivered adversely could affect our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity.
We rely on estimates of our recoverable reserves, which is complex due to geological characteristics of the properties and the number of assumptions made.
We regularly evaluate our U.S. iron ore, Eastern Canadian iron ore and coal reserves based on revenues and costs and update them as required in accordance with SEC Industry Guide 7 and Canadas National Instrument 43-101. In addition, Asia Pacific Iron Ore and Sonoma have published reserves that follow JORC in Australia and changes have been made to the Asia Pacific Iron Ore and Sonoma reserve values to make them comply with SEC requirements. There are numerous uncertainties inherent in estimating quantities of reserves of our mines, including many factors beyond our control.
Estimates of reserves and future net cash flows necessarily depend upon a number of variable factors and assumptions, such as production capacity, effects of regulations by governmental agencies, future prices for iron ore and coal, future industry conditions and operating costs, severance and excise taxes, development costs and costs of extraction and reclamation, all of which may in fact vary considerably from actual results. For these reasons, estimates of the economically recoverable quantities of mineralized deposits attributable to any particular group of properties, classifications of such reserves based on risk of recovery and estimates of future net cash flows prepared by different engineers or by the same engineers at different times may vary substantially as the criteria change. Estimated ore and coal reserves could be affected by future industry conditions, geological conditions and ongoing mine planning. Actual production, revenues and expenditures with respect to our reserves will likely vary from estimates, and if such variances are material, our sales and profitability adversely could be affected.
We rely on our joint venture partners in our mines to meet their payment obligations and we are subject to risks involving the acts or omissions of our joint venture partners when we are not the manager of the joint venture.
We co-own and manage three of our five U.S. iron ore mines and one of our two Eastern Canadian iron ore mines with various joint venture partners that are integrated steel producers or their subsidiaries, including ArcelorMittal, U.S. Steel Canada Inc. and WISCO. We also own minority interests in mines located in Brazil and Australia that we do not manage. We rely on our joint venture partners to make their required capital contributions and to pay for their share of the iron ore pellets that each joint venture produces. Our U.S. iron ore and Eastern Canadian iron ore joint venture partners are also our customers. If one or more of our joint venture partners fail to perform their obligations, the remaining joint venturers, including ourselves, may be required to assume additional material obligations, including significant pension and postretirement health and life insurance benefit obligations. The premature closure of a mine due to the failure of a joint venture partner to perform its obligations could result in significant fixed mine-closure costs, including severance, employment legacy costs and other employment costs, reclamation and other environmental costs, and the costs of terminating long-term obligations, including energy contracts and equipment leases.
We cannot control the actions of our joint venture partners, especially when we have a minority interest in a joint venture and are not designated as the manager of the joint venture. Further, in spite of performing customary due diligence prior to entering into a joint venture, we cannot guarantee full disclosure of prior acts or omissions of the sellers or those with whom we enter into joint ventures. Such risks could have a material adverse effect on the business, results of operations or financial condition of our joint venture interests.
Our expenditures for postretirement benefit and pension obligations could be materially higher than we have predicted if our underlying assumptions prove to be incorrect, there are mine closures or our joint venture partners fail to perform their obligations that relate to employee pension plans.
We provide defined benefit pension plans and OPEB to eligible union and non-union employees in North America, including our share of expense and funding obligations with respect to unconsolidated ventures. Our pension expense and our required contributions to our pension plans directly are affected by the value of plan assets, the projected and actual rate of return on plan assets and the actuarial assumptions we use to measure our defined benefit pension plan obligations, including the rate at which future obligations are discounted.
We cannot predict whether changing market or economic conditions, regulatory changes or other factors will increase our pension expenses or our funding obligations, diverting funds we would otherwise apply to other uses.
We have calculated our unfunded pension and OPEB obligations based on a number of assumptions. If our assumptions do not materialize as expected, cash expenditures and costs that we incur could be materially higher. Moreover, we cannot be certain that regulatory changes will not increase our obligations to provide these or additional benefits. These obligations also may increase substantially in the event of adverse medical cost trends or unexpected rates of early retirement, particularly for bargaining unit retirees for whom there is currently no retiree healthcare cost cap. Early retirement rates likely would increase substantially in the event of a mine closure.
Our sales and competitive position depend on the ability to transport our products to our customers at competitive rates and in a timely manner.
In our U.S. and Eastern Canadian iron ore operations, disruption of the lake and ocean-going freighter and rail transportation services because of weather-related problems, including ice and winter weather conditions on the Great Lakes or St. Lawrence Seaway, strikes, lock-outs or other events, could impair our ability to supply iron ore pellets to our customers at competitive rates or in a timely manner and, thus, could adversely affect our sales and profitability. Similarly, our North American coal operations depend on international freighter and rail transportation services, as well as the availability of dock capacity, and any disruptions to those services or the lack of dock capacity could impair our ability to supply coal to our customers at competitive rates or in a timely manner and, thus, could adversely affect our sales and profitability. Further, less dredging, particularly at Great Lakes ports, could impact negatively our ability to move our iron ore and coal products because less dredging results in lower water levels, which restricts the tonnage that freighters can haul, resulting in higher freight rates.
Our Asia Pacific iron ore and coal operations are also dependent upon rail and port capacity. Disruptions in rail service or availability of dock capacity could similarly impair our ability to supply iron ore and coal to our customers, thereby adversely affecting our sales and profitability. In addition, our Asia Pacific iron ore operations are also in direct competition with the major world seaborne exporters of iron ore and our customers face higher transportation costs than most other Australian producers to ship our products to the Asian markets because of the location of our major shipping port on the south coast of Australia. Further, increases in transportation costs, decreased availability of ocean vessels or changes in such costs relative to transportation costs incurred by our competitors, could make our products less competitive, restrict our access to certain markets and have an adverse effect on our sales, margins and profitability.
Our operating expenses could increase significantly if the price of electrical power, fuel or other energy sources increases.
Operating expenses at all of our mining locations are sensitive to changes in electricity prices and fuel prices, including diesel fuel and natural gas prices. These items make up approximately 19 percent in the aggregate of our operating costs in our U.S. Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore locations. Prices for electricity, natural gas and fuel oils can fluctuate widely with availability and demand levels from other users. During periods of peak usage, supplies of energy may be curtailed and we may not be able to purchase them at historical rates. While we have some long-term contracts with electrical suppliers, we are exposed to fluctuations in energy costs that can affect our production costs. As an example, our Empire and Tilden mines are subject to changes in WEPCOs rates, such as base interim rate changes that WEPCO may self-implement and final rate changes that are approved by the MPSC in response to an application filed by WEPCO. These procedures have resulted in several rate increases since 2008, when Empire and Tildens special contracts for electric service with WEPCO expired. We enter into forward fixed-price supply contracts for natural gas and diesel fuel for use in our operations. Those contracts are of limited duration and do not cover all of our fuel needs, and price increases in fuel costs could cause our profitability to decrease significantly.
In addition, U.S. public utilities are expected to pass through additional capital and operating cost increases related to new U.S. pending environmental regulations that are expected to require significant capital investment and use of cleaner fuels over the next five years and may impact U.S. coal-fired generation capacity. We are estimating that power rates for our electricity-intensive operations could increase above 2011 levels by up to 33 percent by 2016, representing an annual power spend increase of approximately $80 million by 2016.
Natural disasters, weather conditions, disruption of energy, unanticipated geological conditions, equipment failures, and other unexpected events may lead our customers, our suppliers, or our facilities to curtail production or shut down operations.
Operating levels within the mining industry are subject to unexpected conditions and events that are beyond the industrys control. Those events could cause industry members or their suppliers to curtail production or shut down a portion or all of their operations, which could reduce the demand for our iron ore and coal products, and could affect adversely our sales, margins and profitability.
Interruptions in production capabilities inevitably will increase our production costs and reduce our profitability. We do not have meaningful excess capacity for current production needs, and we are not able to quickly increase production at one mine to offset an interruption in production at another mine.
A portion of our production costs are fixed regardless of current operating levels. As noted, our operating levels are subject to conditions beyond our control that can delay deliveries or increase the cost of mining at particular mines for varying lengths of time. These conditions include weather conditions (for example, extreme winter weather, tornados, floods and availability of process water due to drought) and natural disasters, pit wall failures, unanticipated geological conditions, including variations in the amount of rock and soil overlying the deposits of iron ore and coal, variations in rock and other natural materials and variations in geologic conditions and ore processing changes. For example, a tornado disrupted certain mining operations in Alabama, where our Oak Grove coal operation has been negatively impacted.
The manufacturing processes that take place in our mining operations, as well as in our processing facilities, depend on critical pieces of equipment. This equipment may, on occasion, be out of service because of unanticipated failures. In addition, many of our mines and processing facilities have been in operation for several decades, and the equipment is aged. In the future, we may experience additional material plant shutdowns or periods of reduced production because of equipment failures. Further, remediation of any interruption in production capability may require us to make large capital expenditures that could have a negative effect on our profitability and cash flows. Our business interruption insurance would not cover all of the lost revenues associated with equipment failures. Longer-term business disruptions could result in a loss of customers, which adversely could affect our future sales levels, and therefore our profitability.
Regarding the impact of unexpected events happening to our suppliers, many of our mines are dependent on one source for electric power and for natural gas. A significant interruption in service from our energy suppliers due to terrorism, weather conditions, natural disasters or any other cause can result in substantial losses that may not be fully recoverable, either from our business interruption insurance or responsible third parties.
We are subject to extensive governmental regulation, which imposes, and will continue to impose, significant costs and liabilities on us, and future regulation could increase those costs and liabilities or limit our ability to produce iron ore and coal products.
We are subject to various federal, provincial, state and local laws and regulations in each jurisdiction in which we have operations on matters such as employee health and safety, air quality, water pollution, plant and wildlife protection, reclamation and restoration of mining properties, the discharge of materials into the environment, and the effects that mining has on groundwater quality and availability. Numerous governmental permits and approvals are required for our operations. We cannot be certain that we have been or will be at all times in complete compliance with such laws, regulations and permits. If we violate or fail to comply with these laws, regulations or permits, we could be fined or otherwise sanctioned by regulators.
Prior to commencement of mining, we must submit to and obtain approval from the appropriate regulatory authority of plans showing where and how mining and reclamation operations are to occur. These plans must include information such as the location of mining areas, stockpiles, surface waters, haul roads, tailings basins and drainage from mining operations. All requirements imposed by any such authority may be costly and time-consuming and may delay commencement or continuation of exploration or production operations. Specifically, there are several notable proposed or recently enacted rulemakings or activities to which we would be subject or that would further regulate and/or tax our customers, namely the North American integrated steel producer customers that may also require us or our customers to reduce or otherwise change operations significantly or incur additional costs depending on their ultimate outcome. These proposed rules and regulations include: Climate Change and GHG Regulation, Regional Haze, NO2 and SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standards, various National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants/Maximum Achievable Control Technologies standards, new water quality standards and the CSAPR, as well as increased administrative and Legislative Initiatives related to Coal Mining Activities, the Minnesota Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation and Selenium Discharge Regulation. Such new legislation, regulations or orders, if enacted, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition or profitability.
Further, we are subject to a variety of potential liability exposures arising at certain sites where we do not currently conduct operations. These sites include sites where we formerly conducted iron ore mining or processing or other operations, inactive sites that we currently own, predecessor sites, acquired sites, leased land sites and third-party waste disposal sites. We may be named as a responsible party at other sites in the future and we cannot be certain that the costs associated with these additional sites will not be material.
We also could be held liable for any and all consequences arising out of human exposure to hazardous substances used, released or disposed of by us or other environmental damage, including damage to natural resources. In particular, we and certain of our subsidiaries are involved in various claims relating to the exposure of asbestos and silica to seamen who sailed on the Great Lakes vessels formerly owned and operated by certain of our subsidiaries. The full impact of these claims, as well as whether insurance coverage will be sufficient and whether other defendants named in these claims will be able to fund any costs arising out of these claims, continues to be unknown.
Our North American coal operations are subject to increasing levels of regulatory oversight, making it more difficult to obtain and maintain necessary operating permits.
The current political and regulatory environment in the U.S. is disposed negatively toward coal mining, with particular focus on certain categories of mining such as mountaintop removal techniques. Therefore, our coal mining operations in North America are subject to increasing levels of scrutiny. U.S. regulatory efforts targeted at eliminating or minimizing the adverse environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining practices have impacted all types of coal operations. These regulatory initiatives could cause material impacts, delays or disruptions to our coal operations due to our inability to obtain new or renewed permits or modifications to existing permits.
Underground mining is subject to increased safety regulation and may require us to incur additional compliance costs.
Recent mine disasters have led to the enactment and consideration of significant new federal and state laws and regulations relating to safety in underground coal mines. These laws and regulations include requirements for constructing and maintaining caches for the storage of additional self-contained self rescuers throughout underground mines; installing rescue chambers in underground mines; constant tracking of and communication with personnel in the mines; installing cable lifelines from the mine portal to all sections of the mine to assist in emergency escape; submission and approval of emergency response plans; and new and additional safety training. Additionally, new requirements for the prompt reporting of accidents and increased fines and penalties for violations of these and existing regulations have been implemented. These new laws and regulations may cause us to incur substantial additional costs, which may impact adversely our results of operations, financial condition or profitability.
Our profitability could be affected negatively if we fail to maintain satisfactory labor relations.
The USW represents all hourly employees at our U.S. Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations owned and/or managed by Cliffs or its subsidiary companies except for Northshore and Bloom Lake. Effective September 1, 2008, our Empire and Tilden mines in Michigan, and United Taconite and Hibbing mines in Minnesota, entered into four-year labor agreements with the USW that cover approximately 2,400 USW-represented employees at those mines. Those agreements are effective through August 31, 2012. Effective March 1, 2009, Wabush entered into a five-year labor agreement with the USW that covers approximately 660 hourly employees, which is effective through February 28, 2014. The UMWA represents approximately 810 hourly employees at our Pinnacle location in West Virginia and our Oak Grove location in Alabama. A new five and one-half year labor agreement with respect to those mines was entered into with the UMWA effective July 1, 2011 through December 31, 2016. Approximately 120 hourly employees at the railroads we own that transport products among our facilities are represented by seven separate rail unions. The moratorium for bargaining as to each of those unions under the Railway Labor Act expired on December 31, 2009. Since then five-year agreements have been reached with four of the unions, and the moratorium on bargaining expires as to each on December 31, 2014. Negotiations are actively underway with the remaining three unions and it is common for
bargaining under this Act to last a number of years after the moratorium has expired before a new agreement is reached. With respect to Railway Labor Act bargaining, work stoppages cannot occur until the matter has been mediated before a federal mediator. With respect to agreements with the USW, work stoppages are possible if new agreements are not reached before the existing agreements expire. As is customary, bargaining with the USW as to the Empire, Tilden, United Taconite and Hibbing mines is scheduled for the summer of 2012 prior to August 31, 2012, which is the date through which the agreements are effective. Four new labor agreements have been negotiated with the USW for those mines since the last work stoppage in 1993. If the collective bargaining agreements relating to the employees at our mines or railroads are not renegotiated successfully prior to their expiration, we could face work stoppages or labor strikes.
We may encounter labor shortages for critical operational positions, which could affect adversely our ability to produce our products.
We are predicting a long-term shortage of skilled workers for the mining industry and competition for the available workers limits our ability to attract and retain employees. At our mining locations, many of our mining operational employees are approaching retirement age. As these experienced employees retire, we may have difficulty replacing them at competitive wages. As a result, wages are increasing to address the turnover.
Our profitability could be affected adversely by the failure of outside contractors to perform.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore, Sonoma and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, use contractors to handle many of the operational phases of their mining and processing operations and therefore are subject to the performance of outside companies on key production areas.
We may be unable to successfully identify, acquire and integrate strategic acquisition candidates.
Our ability to grow successfully through acquisitions depends upon our ability to identify, negotiate, complete and integrate suitable acquisitions and to obtain necessary financing. It is possible that we will be unable to successfully complete potential acquisitions. In addition, the costs of acquiring other businesses could increase if competition for acquisition candidates increases. Additionally, the success of an acquisition is subject to other risks and uncertainties, including our ability to realize operating efficiencies expected from an acquisition, the size or quality of the resource, delays in realizing the benefits of an acquisition, difficulties in retaining key employees, customers or suppliers of the acquired businesses, difficulties in maintaining uniform controls, procedures, standards and policies throughout acquired companies, the risks associated with the assumption of contingent or undisclosed liabilities of acquisition targets, the impact of changes to our allocation of purchase price, and the ability to generate future cash flows or the availability of financing. We cannot provide assurance that we will be able to successfully identify strategic candidates or acquire any such businesses and if we do identify and acquire any such business, we cannot provide assurance that we would be able to successfully integrate such acquired business in a timely manner or at all.
We continually must replace reserves depleted by production. Our exploration activities may not result in additional discoveries.
Our ability to replenish our ore reserves is important to our long-term viability. Depleted ore reserves must be replaced by further delineation of existing ore bodies or by locating new deposits in order to maintain production levels over the long term. Resource exploration and development are highly speculative in nature. Our exploration projects involve many risks, require substantial expenditures and may not result in the discovery of sufficient additional mineral deposits that can be mined profitably. Once a site with mineralization is discovered, it may take several years from the initial phases of drilling until production is possible, during which time the economic feasibility of production may change. Substantial expenditures are required to establish recoverable proven and probable reserves and to construct mining and processing facilities. As a result, there is no assurance that current or future exploration programs will be successful. There is a risk that depletion of reserves will not be offset by discoveries or acquisitions.
The proposed Minerals Resource Rent Tax by the Australian Federal Government could affect adversely our results of operations in Australia.
In July 2010, the Australian Federal Government announced its intention to introduce a new MRRT applicable to the mining of iron ore and coal. The MRRT is proposed to apply from July 1, 2012 to existing and future projects at an effective tax rate of 22.5 percent. In December 2010, the Australian governments taskforce that was charged with recommending design principles for the new taxes delivered its recommendations on the MRRT to the Australian government. The recommendations paper provided detail about key features of the MRRT and includes industry and public input that assisted in final development of the framework. The first release of the governments exposure draft legislation came out on June 10, 2011. Upon consideration of the publics comments and recommendations, the second exposure draft was released on September 18, 2011, with a closing date of October 5, 2011 for public consultation. The MRRT bill was introduced into the lower house of Parliament on November 2, 2011 where it was passed on November 23, 2011. The MRRT bill is now scheduled for debate by the Senate in early 2012. This momentum by the Australian government indicates its aim to pass the bill through both houses of Parliament in time for the proposed July 1, 2012 start date. If implemented as proposed, the MRRT may have a significant impact on our financial statements. The impacts of the MRRT will be recorded in the financial period during which the legislation is enacted.
Changes in laws or regulations or the manner of their interpretation or enforcement adversely could impact our financial performance and restrict our ability to operate our business or execute our strategies.
New laws or regulations, or changes in existing laws or regulations, or the manner of their interpretation or enforcement, could increase our cost of doing business and restrict our ability to operate our business or execute our strategies. This includes, among other things, the possible taxation under U.S. law of certain income from foreign operations, compliance costs and enforcement under the Dodd-Frank Act, and costs associated with complying with the PPACA and the Reconciliation Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder. The impact of the U.S. health care reform will be phased in between 2011 and 2014 and will likely have a significant adverse impact on our costs of providing employee health benefits. In addition, as a result of the health care reform legislation that has been passed, our results of operations were negatively impacted by a non-cash income tax charge of approximately $16.1 million in the first quarter of 2010 to reflect the reduced deductibility of the postretirement prescription drug coverage. As with any significant government action, the provisions of the health care reform legislation are still being assessed and may have additional financial accounting and reporting ramifications. The impact of any such changes, which we continue to evaluate on our business operations and financial statements, remains uncertain.
Mine closures entail substantial costs, and if we close one or more of our mines sooner than anticipated, our results of operations and financial condition may be affected significantly and adversely.
If we close any of our mines, our revenues would be reduced unless we were able to increase production at our other mines, which may not be possible. The closure of a mining operation involves significant fixed closure costs, including accelerated employment legacy costs, severance-related obligations, reclamation and other environmental costs, and the costs of terminating long-term obligations, including energy contracts and equipment leases. We base our assumptions regarding the life of our mines on detailed studies we perform from time to time, but those studies and assumptions are subject to uncertainties and estimates that may not be accurate. We recognize the costs of reclaiming open pits and shafts, stockpiles, tailings ponds, roads and other mining support areas based on the estimated mining life of our property. If we were to significantly reduce the estimated life of any of our mines, the mine-closure costs would be applied to a shorter period of production, which would increase production costs per ton produced and could significantly and adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.
A North American mine permanent closure could significantly increase and accelerate employment legacy costs, including our expense and funding costs for pension and other postretirement benefit obligations. A number of employees would be eligible for immediate retirement under special eligibility rules that apply upon a mine closure. All employees eligible for immediate retirement under the pension plans at the time of the permanent mine closure also would be eligible for postretirement health and life insurance benefits, thereby
accelerating our obligation to provide these benefits. Certain mine closures would precipitate a pension closure liability significantly greater than an ongoing operation liability. Finally, a permanent mine closure could trigger severance-related obligations, which can equal up to eight weeks of pay per employee, depending on length of service. However, no employee entitled to an immediate pension upon closure of a mine is entitled to severance. As a result, the closure of one or more of our mines could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
We are subject to risks involving operations and sales in multiple countries.
We have a strategy to broaden our scope as a supplier of iron ore and other raw materials to the global integrated steel industry. As we expand beyond our traditional North American base business, we will be subject to additional risks beyond those risks relating to our North American operations, such as fluctuations in currency exchange rates; potentially adverse tax consequences due to overlapping or differing tax structures; burdens to comply with multiple and potentially conflicting foreign laws and regulations, including export requirements, tariffs and other barriers, environmental health and safety requirements and unexpected changes in any of these laws and regulations; the imposition of duties, tariffs, import and export controls and other trade barriers impacting the seaborne iron ore and coal markets; difficulties in staffing and managing multi-national operations; political and economic instability and disruptions, including terrorist attacks; disadvantages of competing against companies from countries that are not subject to U.S. laws and regulations, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; and uncertainties in the enforcement of legal rights and remedies in multiple jurisdictions. If we are unable to manage successfully the risks associated with expanding our global business, these risks could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations or financial condition.
We may have additional tax liabilities if proposed U.S. income tax law changes are adopted.
The Budget Control Act of 2011, which was signed into law by President Obama on August 2, 2011, placed a cap on U.S. Federal Government discretionary spending of $917 billion, raised the debt ceiling and created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the so-called Supercommittee. The Supercommittee was to develop a deficit reduction package that would bring about $1.2 trillion in savings over ten years. The President, on September 19, 2011, unveiled the Administrations plan to reduce the U.S. Federal Government deficit by an additional $3 trillion over the next decade, largely through tax and healthcare policy changes that include many of the revenue offset proposals included in the Administrations fiscal year 2012 budget proposal, such as international tax reform and repeal of the LIFO method of accounting. The Presidents plan also proposed repealing percentage depletion for hard mineral fossil fuels and the ability to claim the domestic manufacturing deduction against income derived from the production of coal and other hard mineral fossil fuels. In as much as the Supercommittee failed to meet its deadline, the passage of any legislation as a result of these proposals or any other similar changes in U.S. federal income tax laws is unclear. However, any changes could eliminate certain tax deductions that are available currently to Cliffs. The loss of these tax deductions would affect adversely our taxable income and without a corresponding reduction in the U.S. statutory rate, would generate additional tax liabilities.
We are subject to a variety of market risks.
Market risks include those caused by changes in the value of equity investments, changes in commodity prices, interest rates and foreign currency exchange rates. We have established policies and procedures to manage such risks; however, certain risks are beyond our control.
Estimates relating to new development projects are uncertain and we may incur higher costs and lower economic returns than estimated.
Mine development projects typically require a number of years and significant expenditures during the development phase before production is possible. Such projects could experience unexpected problems and delays during development, construction and mine start-up.
Our decision to develop a project typically is based on the results of feasibility studies, which estimate the anticipated economic returns of a project. The actual project profitability or economic feasibility may differ from such estimates as a result of any of the following factors, among others:
Our future development activities may not result in the expansion or replacement of current production with new production, or one or more of these new production sites or facilities may be less profitable than currently anticipated or may not be profitable at all, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial position.
We have no unresolved comments from the SEC.
The following map shows the locations of our operations:
General Information about the Mines
All iron ore mining operations are open-pit mines that are in production. Additional pit development is underway at each mine as required by long-range mine plans. At our U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore and Asia Pacific Iron Ore mines, drilling programs are conducted periodically for the purpose of refining guidance related to ongoing operations.
North American Coal operations consist of both underground and surface mines that are in production. Drilling programs are conducted periodically for the purpose of refining guidance related to ongoing operations.
Geologic models are developed for all mines to define the major ore and waste rock types. Computerized block models for iron ore and stratigraphic models for coal are constructed that include all relevant geologic and metallurgical data. These are used to generate grade and tonnage estimates, followed by detailed mine design and life of mine operating schedules.
U.S. Iron Ore
We directly or indirectly own and operate interests in five U.S. Iron Ore mines located in Michigan and Minnesota from which we produced 23.7 million, 21.6 million and 15.0 million long tons of iron ore pellets in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively, for our account. We produced 7.3 million, 6.6 million and 1.9 million long tons, respectively, on behalf of the steel company partners of the mines.
Our U.S. Iron Ore mines produce from deposits located within the Biwabik and Negaunee Iron Formation which are classified as Lake Superior type iron-formations that formed under similar sedimentary conditions in shallow marine basins approximately two billion years ago. Magnetite and hematite are the predominant iron oxide ore minerals present, with lesser amounts of goethite and limonite. Quartz is the predominant waste mineral present, with lesser amounts of other chiefly iron bearing silicate and carbonate minerals. The ore minerals liberate from the waste minerals upon fine grinding.
The Empire mine is located on the Marquette Iron Range in Michigans Upper Peninsula approximately 15 miles southwest of Marquette, Michigan. Over the past five years, the Empire mine has produced between 2.6 million and 4.9 million tons of iron ore pellets annually.
We own 79.0 percent of Empire and a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal USA has retained the remaining 21 percent ownership in Empire with limited rights and obligations, which it has a unilateral right to put to us at any time subsequent to the end of 2007. This right has not been exercised. Each partner takes its share of production pro rata; however, provisions in the partnership agreement allow additional or reduced production to be delivered under certain circumstances. We own directly approximately one-half of the remaining ore reserves at the Empire mine and lease them to Empire. A subsidiary of ours leases the balance of the Empire reserves from other owners of such reserves and subleases them to Empire. Operations consists of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, Autogenous Grinding (AG) mills, magnetic separation, and floatation to produce a magnetic concentrate that is then supplied to the on-site pellet plant.
The Tilden mine is located on the Marquette Iron Range in Michigans Upper Peninsula approximately five miles south of Ishpeming, Michigan. Over the past five years, the Tilden mine has produced between 5.6 million and 9.1 million tons of iron ore pellets annually. We own 85 percent of Tilden, with the remaining minority interest owned by a subsidiary of U.S. Steel Canada Inc. Each partner takes its share of production pro rata; however, provisions in the partnership agreement allow additional or reduced production to be delivered under certain circumstances. We own all of the ore reserves at the Tilden mine and lease them to Tilden. Operations consists of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, AG mills, magnetic separation, and floatation to produce a magnetic concentrate that is then supplied to the on-site pellet plant.
The Empire and Tilden mines are located adjacent to each other. The logistical benefits include a consolidated transportation system, more efficient employee and equipment operating schedules, reduction in redundant facilities and workforce and best practices sharing. Two railroads, one of which is wholly owned by us, link the Empire and Tilden mines with Lake Michigan at the loading port of Escanaba, Michigan and with the Lake Superior loading port of Marquette, Michigan.
In the third quarter of 2010, an expansion project was approved at our Empire and Tilden mines for capital investments on equipment. The expansion project is expected to allow the Empire mine to produce at three million tons annually through 2014 and increase Tilden mine production by an additional two million tons annually.
The Hibbing mine is located in the center of Minnesotas Mesabi Iron Range and is approximately ten miles north of Hibbing, Minnesota and five miles west of Chisholm, Minnesota. Over the past five years, the Hibbing mine has produced between 1.7 million and 8.2 million tons of iron ore pellets annually. We own 23.0 percent of Hibbing, a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal has a 62.3 percent interest and a subsidiary of U.S. Steel has a 14.7 percent interest. Each partner takes its share of production pro rata; however, provisions in the joint venture agreement allow additional or reduced production to be delivered under certain circumstances. Mining is conducted on multiple mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases are routinely renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. Hibbing operations consists of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, AG mills and magnetic separation, and an on-site pellet plant. From the site, pellets are transported by BNSF rail to a ship loading port at Superior, Wisconsin operated by BNSF.
The Northshore mine is located in northeastern Minnesota, approximately two miles south of Babbitt, Minnesota on the northeastern end of the Mesabi Iron Range. Northshores processing facilities are located in
Silver Bay, Minnesota, near Lake Superior. Crude ore is shipped by a wholly owned railroad from the mine to the processing and dock facilities at Silver Bay. Over the past five years, the Northshore mine has produced between 3.2 million and 5.8 million tons of iron ore pellets annually. The Northshore mine began production under our management and ownership on October 1, 1994. We own 100 percent of the mine. Mining is conducted on multiple mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. Northshore operations consist of an open pit truck and shovel mine where two stages of crushing occurs before the ore is transported along a Company-owned 47-mile rail line to the plant site in Silver Bay. At the plant site, two additional stages of crushing occurs before the ore is sent to the concentrator. The concentrator utilizes rod mills and magnetic separation to produce a magnetite concentrate, which is delivered to the pellet plant located on-site. The plant site has its own ship loading port located on Lake Superior.
United Taconite Mine
The United Taconite mine is located on Minnesotas Mesabi Iron Range in and around the city of Eveleth, Minnesota. The United Taconite concentrator and pelletizing facilities are located ten miles south of the mine, near the town of Forbes, Minnesota. Over the past five years, the United Taconite mine has produced between 3.8 million and 5.3 million tons of iron ore pellets annually. In 2008, we completed the acquisition of the remaining 30 percent interest in United Taconite. Mining is conducted on multiple mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases routinely are renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. United Taconite operations consists of an open pit truck and shovel mine where two stages of crushing occurs before the ore is transported by rail to the plant site located ten miles to the south. At the plant site an additional stage of crushing occurs before the ore is sent to the concentrator. The concentrator utilizes rod mills and magnetic separation to produce a magnetite concentrate, which is delivered to the pellet plant. From the site, pellets are transported by CN rail to a ship loading port at Duluth, MN operated by CN.
Eastern Canadian Iron Ore
We own and operate interests in two iron ore mines in the Provinces of Quebec and Labrador from which we produce a product mix of iron ore pellets and concentrate. We produced 6.9 million, 3.9 million and 2.1 million metric tons of iron ore product in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively. In 2011 we acquired Consolidated Thompson along with its 75 percent interest in the Bloom Lake property.
Our Eastern Canadian Mines produce from deposits located within the area known as the Labrador Trough and is composed of iron-formations, which are classified as Lake Superior type. Lake Superior type iron-formations consist of banded sedimentary rocks that formed under similar conditions in shallow marine basins approximately two billion years ago. The Labrador Trough region has experienced considerable metamorphism and folding of the original iron deposits. Magnetite and hematite are the predominant iron oxide ore minerals present, with lesser amounts of goethite and limonite. Quartz is the predominant waste mineral present, with lesser amounts of other chiefly iron bearing silicate minerals. The ore minerals liberate from the waste minerals upon fine grinding.
The Wabush mine has been in operation since 1965. Over the past five years, the Wabush mine has produced between 2.7 million and 4.6 million tons of iron ore pellets annually. On October 12, 2009, we exercised our right of first refusal to acquire the remaining interest in Wabush, including U.S. Steel subsidiarys 44.6 percent interest and ArcelorMittals subsidiarys 28.6 percent interest. Ownership transfer to Cliffs was completed on February 1, 2010. Mining is conducted on several mineral leases having varying expiration dates. Mining leases are routinely renegotiated and renewed as they approach their respective expiration dates. The Wabush mine and concentrator are located in Wabush, Labrador, Newfoundland, and the pellet plant and dock facility is located in Pointe Noire, Quebec, Canada. At the mine, operations consist of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, AG mills and gravity separation to produce an iron concentrate. Concentrates are shipped by rail 300 miles to Pointe Noire where they are pelletized for shipment via vessel within Canada, to the United States and other international destinations. Additionally, concentrates may be shipped directly from Pointe Noire for sinter feed.
The Bloom Lake mine and concentrator are located approximately nine miles southwest of Fermont, Quebec, Canada. As previously mentioned, our acquisition of Consolidated Thompson included a 75 percent majority ownership in the Bloom Lake operation. Phase I of the Bloom Lake mine was commissioned in March 2010 and it consists of an open pit truck and shovel mine, a concentrator that utilizes single stage crushing, an AG mill and gravity separation to produce an iron concentrate. Phase II currently is under construction and consists of an additional concentrator and support facilities. The expansion project upon completion of Phase II will result in a ramp-up of production capabilities from 8.0 million to 16.0 million metric tons of iron ore concentrate per year. The open pit mine and mining fleet will be expanded to support the required ore delivery for both Phase I and II. From the site, concentrate is transported by rail to a ship loading port in Pointe Noire, Quebec.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore
In Australia, we own and operate interests in the Koolyanobbing and Cockatoo Island iron ore mines from which we produced 8.9 million metric tons, 9.3 million metric tons and 8.3 million metric tons in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively.
The mineralization at the Koolyanobbing operations is predominantly hematite and goethite replacements in greenstone-hosted banded iron-formations. Individual deposits tend to be small with complex ore-waste contact relationships. The reserves at the Koolyanobbing operations are derived from 14 separate mineral deposits distributed over a 70-mile operating radius. The mineralization at Cockatoo Island is predominantly soft, hematite-rich sandstone that produces premium high grade, low impurity direct shipping fines.
The Koolyanobbing operations are located 250 miles east of Perth and approximately 30 miles northeast of the town of Southern Cross. Koolyanobbing produces lump and fines iron ore. Ongoing exploration programs targeting extensions to the iron ore resource base, including regional exploration targets in the Yilgarn Mineral Field, were active in 2011. In 2011, a significant permitting milestone was achieved with the granting of regulatory approvals necessary to develop above the water table at Windarlings W1 deposit. Over the past five years, the Koolyanobbing operation has produced between 7.3 million and 8.9 million tons annually. Ore material is sourced from eight separate open pit mines and delivered by typical production trucks or road trains to a crushing and screening facility located at Koolyanobbing. In 2011 we received regulatory approvals necessary for the development of the Deception deposit located approximately 12 miles north of Windarling. All of the ore from the Koolyanobbing operations is transported by rail to the Port of Esperance, 360 miles to the south, for shipment to Asian customers.
In September 2010, our Board of Directors approved a capital project at our Koolyanobbing operation that is expected to increase production output at Koolyanobbing to approximately 11 million metric tons annually. The expansion project requires a capital investment of $275 million, of which $202 million has been spent as of December 31, 2011. These improvements are expected to be fully implemented by the second half of 2012.
The Cockatoo Island operation is located four miles to the west of Yampi Peninsula in the Buccaneer Archipelago, and 90 miles north of Derby in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia. The island has been mined for iron ore since 1951, with a break in operations between 1985 and 1993. During the past five years, Cockatoo Island has ranged from no production to 1.4 million tons annually.
We own a 50 percent interest in this joint venture to mine remnant iron ore deposits. Mining from this phase of the operation commenced in late 2000. Production at Cockatoo Island ended during 2008 due to construction on Phase 3 of the seawall, which at the time was expected to extend production for an additional two years. In April 2009, an unanticipated subsidence of the seawall occurred and, as a result, production from the mine was delayed. Production at Cockatoo Island resumed earlier than expected, resulting in the production of 0.7 million metric tons in the second half of 2010. Production continued throughout 2011, resulting in the production of 1.4 million metric tons for the year. Ore is hauled by haul truck to the stockpiles, crushed and screened, and then transferred by conveyor to the ship loader where the ore is loaded onto ships for export to customers in Asia.
In August 2011, we entered into a term sheet with our joint venture partner, HWE Cockatoo Pty Ltd., to sell our beneficial interest in the mining tenements and certain infrastructure of Cockatoo Island to Pluton Resources. The potential transaction is expected to occur at the end of the current stage of mining, Phase 3, which is anticipated to be complete in late 2012. Due diligence has been completed and the definitive sale agreement is being drafted and negotiated. The definitive sale agreement will be conditional on the receipt of regulatory and third-party consents and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.
Latin American Iron Ore
Mineralized material at the Amapá mine is predominantly hematite occurring in weathered and leached greenstone-hosted banded iron-formation of the Archean Vila Nova Group. Variable degrees of leaching generate soft hematite mineralization suitable for either sinter feed production via crushing and gravity separation or pelletizing feed production via grinding and flotation. Amapá operations consist of an open pit mine and a concentrator that utilizes crushing, milling and gravity separation, to produce various iron products. From the site, products are transported by rail to the Port of Santana. Over the past four years, the Amapá mine has produced between 1.2 million and 4.8 million metric tons annually.
Ore reserves for Amapá, in which we have a 30 percent ownership interest, have not been estimated by Cliffs. The ore reserve estimation process is controlled and managed by Anglo as the parent company and mine operator. Sufficient technical data on the processing of Amapá mineralized material does not exist at this time,
precluding estimation of recoverable product and grade, and therefore economic reserves as defined by SEC Industry Guide 7.
North American Coal
We directly own and operate three North American coal mining complexes from which we produced a total of 5.0 million, 3.2 million and 1.7 million short tons of coal in North America in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively. Our coal production at each mine is shipped within the U.S. by rail or barge. Coal for international customers is shipped through the ports of Mobile, Alabama, Newport News, Virginia and New Orleans, Louisiana.
Coal seams mined at all of our North American Coal operations are Pennsylvanian Age and derived from the Pocahontas 3 and 4 seams at the Pinnacle Complex and the Blue Creek Seam at Oak Grove, which produce high quality, low ash metallurgical products, while multiple seams are mined at the CLCC underground and surface mines producing both metallurgical and thermal products.
The Pinnacle Complex includes the Pinnacle and Green Ridge mines and is located approximately 30 miles southwest of Beckley, West Virginia. The Pinnacle mine has been in operation since 1969. Over the past five years, the Pinnacle mine has produced between 0.7 million and 2.1 million tons of coal annually. The Green Ridge mines have been in operation since 2004 and have produced between 0.1 million and 0.4 million tons of coal annually. In February 2010, the Green Ridge No. 1 mine was closed permanently due to exhaustion of the economic reserves at the mine. In addition, the Green Ridge No. 2 mine was idled in January 2012. Primary access to the Pinnacle mine is by shaft, while a drift entry is used at Green Ridge. Pinnacle utilizes continuous miners and a longwall plow system, Green Ridge utilizes only continuous miners. Both facilities share preparation, processing and load-out facilities.
The Oak Grove mine is located approximately 25 miles southwest of Birmingham, Alabama. The mine has been in operation since 1972. Over the past five years, the Oak Grove mine has produced between 0.9 million and 1.2 million tons of coal annually. In 2011 a new shaft and support facilities were commissioned in order to reduce the transport time for supplies and personnel to the working face. The previous shaft still is utilized in a support role. Oak Grove utilizes a long wall shear with continuous miners. Preparation, processing and rail load-out facilities are located on-site. As previously disclosed, the preparation plant at Oak Grove incurred significant tornado damage during 2011. The plant rebuild includes new equipment and improvements to the process design that will enhance the performance of the plant. The preparation plant achieved partial operating capacity in January 2012.
Cliffs Logan County Coal
Cliffs Logan County Coal (CLCC) property is located within Boone, Logan and Wyoming counties in southern West Virginia. CLCC currently produces metallurgical and thermal coal from surface and underground mines that are served by a preparation plant and unit-train load out facility on the CSXT. Two underground mines, the Powellton No. 1 and Dingess-Chilton Mines, produce high-volatile metallurgical coal using room and pillar retreat mining methods using continuous miner equipment. The Toney Fork No. 2 surface mine, produces thermal coal with a combination of contour strip area mining and point removal methods.
The Powellton and Dingess-Chilton mines have been in operation since 2008. Over the past four years, the Powellton mine has produced between 0.1 million and 0.7 million tons of coal annually and the Dingess-Chilton mine production has ranged from no production to 0.6 million tons of coal annually due to the ramp-up to full production. The Toney Fork No. 2 mine has been in operation since 2005. Over the past four years, the Toney Fork No. 2 mine has produced between 1.2 million and 1.5 million tons of coal annually. The Lower War Eagle and Elklick Chilton mines currently are under development and expected to produce approximately 0.2 million tons and 0.1 million tons, respectively, in 2012.
Asia Pacific Coal
We have a 45 percent interest in the Sonoma joint venture, which owns the mine. Development began in 2007 with the first load of coal shipped in early 2008. The Sonoma operation is located in the northern section of Queenslands Bowen Basin, four miles south of Collinsville. A mix of high-quality metallurgical coal and thermal coal is recovered from the B and C seams of the Permian Mooranbah Coal Measures. The operation consists of an open pit truck shovel mine, a preparation/processing plant and rail load-out facility, which are located on-site. Product is delivered via rail 65 miles east to the Abbot Point Coal Terminal in Bowen. Product is shipped primarily to customers located in Asia. Over the past four years, the Sonoma mine has produced between 2.4 million and 3.5 million tons of coal annually.
We have a corporate policy relating to internal control and procedures with respect to auditing and estimating mineral reserves. The procedures include the calculation of mineral reserves at each mine by
professional mining engineers and geologists. We evaluate and analyze reserve estimates every three years in accordance with our mineral reserve policy or earlier if conditions merit. Management compiles and reviews the calculations, and once finalized, such information is used to prepare the disclosures for our annual and quarterly reports. The disclosures are reviewed and approved by management, including our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer. Additionally, the long-range mine planning and mineral reserve estimates are reviewed annually by our Audit Committee. Furthermore, all changes to mineral reserve estimates, other than those due to production, are adequately documented and submitted to our Chief Executive Officer for review and approval. Finally, we perform periodic reviews of long-range mine plans and mineral reserve estimates at mine staff meetings and senior management meetings. In 2012, we will be revising our policy in regards to the estimation and reporting of mineral reserves to better align with international best practices. As we continue to grow as an international mining company with a diversified mineral portfolio, our policies must be able to support the Company as it evolves.
Reserves are defined by SEC Industry Standard Guide 7 as that part of a mineral deposit that could be economically and legally extracted and produced at the time of the reserve determination. All reserves are classified as proven or probable and are supported by life-of-mine plans.
Reserve estimates are based on pricing that does not exceed the three-year trailing average of benchmark prices. For United States Iron Ore operations, prices are based on iron ore pellets delivered to the Lower Great Lakes, and for our Eastern Canadian and Asia Pacific operations, iron ore prices represent the three-year trailing average of international benchmark pricing. Our North American Coal operations utilize a combination of domestic and international benchmarks.
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2011, commodity prices vary based on the date of the last reserve analysis. The table below identifies the reserve analysis date and the respective three-year trailing price for each of our mines as of December 31, 2011.
Iron Ore Reserves
Ore reserve estimates for our iron ore mines as of December 31, 2011 were estimated from fully designed open pits developed using three-dimensional modeling techniques. These fully designed pits incorporate design slopes, practical mining shapes and access ramps to assure the accuracy of our reserve estimates. New estimates were completed in 2011 for the following operations: Tilden, Bloom Lake and Koolyanobbing. All other operations reserves are net 2011 production.
United States Iron Ore
A new economic reserve analysis was completed for the Tilden operations in 2011. Based on the analysis, Tilden pellet reserves decreased slightly by 0.4 million long tons when compared to 2010. The decrease is due to an updated geological model. The Tilden pellet reserves were further reduced by 2011 production.
Eastern Canadian Iron Ore
An economic reserve analysis was completed for the Bloom Lake operations in 2011. As previously mentioned, we acquired a controlling interest in Bloom Lake through the purchase of Consolidated Thompson in 2011. As such, 2011 is the first year that we are reporting reserves for Bloom Lake.
Asia Pacific Iron Ore
A new economic reserve analysis was completed for the Koolyanobbing operations in 2011. Total reserves decreased 1.8 million metric tons, net 2011 production. The decrease is due to updated geological models.
Coal reserves estimates for our North American underground and surface mines as of December 31, 2011 were estimated using three-dimensional modeling techniques, coupled with scheduled mine plans. The Pinnacle and Oak Grove coal reserves have not changed net of 2011 mine production.
North American Coal
A new economic reserve analysis was completed for Cliffs Logan County Coal operations in 2011. Total recoverable coal reserves decreased 6.2 million short tons, net 2011 production. The decrease is due to updated fully scheduled mine plans for both underground and surface operations. Reserve figures for our Pinnacle Complex and Oak Grove operations are based on economic analyses completed in 2009, and based upon our reserve estimate policy, are scheduled to be updated in 2012 with updated cost and pricing information.
Asia Pacific Coal
The coal reserve estimate for our Asia Pacific mine (Sonoma) as of December 31, 2011 is based on a JORC compliant resource estimate and an optimized pit design completed as part of the 2007 feasibility study. These estimates are updated by the manager of the Sonoma joint venture yearly by way of production depletion, reconciliation of mined coal to product shipped and updated geological models. As a result of the 2011 estimate update, recoverable coal reserves increased by 1.1 million metric tons. Coal pricing for the reserve estimate is based upon international benchmark pricing at the time of investment in 2007, which was $71 per metric ton F.O.B. port for the range of products generated at Sonoma. Coal pricing at Sonoma has increased significantly since 2007, with the three-year trailing average price for 2008 to 2010 at $121 per ton.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings.
Alabama Dust Litigation. There are currently four cases in the Alabama state court system that comprise the Alabama Dust Litigation, the first of which was filed in 1997 and styled White, et al. v. USX Corporation, et al. Similar cases were filed in 2004 (Waid, et al v. Cliffs North American Coal LLC), 2009 (Alexander, et al. v. Cliffs North American Coal LLC, et al., and 2011 (Brown, et al. v. Cliffs North American Coal LLC et al.). Generally, these claims are brought by nearby homeowners who allege that dust emanating from the Concord Preparation Plant causes damage to their properties. These cases are in different procedural stages and we intend to defend all of these cases vigorously. It is possible that these types of complaints may continue to be filed in the future, but the overall impact of these cases is not anticipated currently to have a material impact on our business.
Fugitive Dust / PM10 at Northshore Mining Silver Bay Plant Site. Northshore and the MPCA have entered into a Stipulation Agreement dated January 20, 2012. The Stipulation Agreement pertains to alleged violations at Northshores Silver Bay facility that were discovered during a review of ambient air monitoring results and in response to complaints to the MPCA. The allegations include violations of National and State Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM10. As part of the Stipulation Agreement, the MPCA will assess a civil penalty in the amount of approximately $240,000 and a Supplemental Environmental Project to cost at least $80,000.
Maritime Asbestos Litigation. The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company and/or The Cleveland-Cliffs Steamship Company have been named defendants in 489 actions brought from 1986 to date by former seamen in which the plaintiffs claim damages under federal law for illnesses in varying levels of severity allegedly suffered as the result of exposure to airborne asbestos fibers while serving as crew members aboard the vessels previously owned or managed by our entities until the mid-1980s. All of these actions have been consolidated into multidistrict proceedings in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, along with approximately 30,000 other cases from various jurisdictions throughout the United States that were filed by seamen against ship-owners and other defendants. Through a series of court orders, the docket has been reduced to approximately 3,500 active cases, of which we are a named defendant in 76. These cases are in the discovery phase. The court has dismissed the remainder of the cases without prejudice. Those dismissed cases could be reinstated upon application by plaintiffs counsel. The claims against our entities are insured in amounts that vary by policy year; however, the manner in which these retentions will be applied remains uncertain. Our entities continue to vigorously contest these claims and have made no settlements on them.
Pinnacle Mine Environmental Litigation. On June 24, 2010, the West Virginia DEP filed a lawsuit against the Pinnacle Mine and other West Virginia coal mining operations alleging non-compliance with its NPDES discharge permit. The complaint alleges various exceedances of the permits effluent quality limits and seeks injunctive relief and penalties. Pinnacle has had preliminary discussions with DEP and proposed a Consent Order documenting Pinnacle Mines selenium control commitments. DEP has yet to respond, but at this time, we do not believe this suit will have a material impact on the mines operations.
The Rio Tinto Mine Site. The Rio Tinto Mine Site is a historic underground copper mine located near Mountain City, Nevada, where tailings were placed in Mill Creek, a tributary to the Owyhee River. Site investigation and remediation work is being conducted in accordance with a Consent Order between the NDEP and the RTWG composed of Cliffs, Atlantic Richfield Company, Teck Cominco American Incorporated, and E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. The Consent Order provides for technical review by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the NDEP and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation (collectively, Rio Tinto Trustees). The Consent Order is currently projected to continue with the objective of supporting the selection of the final remedy for the site. As of December 31, 2011, the estimated costs of the available remediation
alternatives currently range from approximately $10.0 million to $30.5 million in total for all potentially responsible parties. In recognition of the potential for an NRD claim, the parties actively pursued a global settlement that would include the EPA and encompass both the remedial action and the NRD issues.
On May 29, 2009, the RTWG entered into a Rio Tinto Mine Site Work and Cost Allocation Agreement (the Allocation Agreement) to resolve differences over the allocation of any negotiated remedy. The Allocation Agreement contemplates that the RTWG will enter into an insured fixed-price cleanup agreement, or IFC, pursuant to which a contractor would assume responsibility for the implementation and funding of the remedy in exchange for a fixed price. We are obligated to fund 32.5 percent of the IFC. In the event an IFC is not implemented, the RTWG has agreed on allocation percentages in the Allocation Agreement, with Cliffs being committed to fund 32.5 percent of any remedy. We have a current reserve that we believe is adequate to fund our anticipated portion of the IFC. Due to the duration of the negotiations and costs associated with delays Cliffs increased its reserve by approximately one million dollars in 2011 to a total of $10.0 million as of December 31, 2011. While a global settlement with the EPA has not been finalized, we expect an agreement will be reached in early 2012.
Wisconsin Electric Power Company Rate Cases. On July 2, 2009, WEPCO filed a new rate case at the MPSC wherein WEPCO proposed to increase its rates for electric service. On August 18, 2009, the judge granted our petition to intervene in the new rate case. Testimony in the case was completed in early February 2010. On July 1, 2010, the MPSC approved new rates, effective on July 2, 2010, that were projected to increase Tilden and Empires electric costs by approximately $14.4 million per year, or 13.6 percent, as compared to the rates that were in effect when the case was filed. Because WEPCO had self-implemented an interim rate increase in February 2010, the actual increase in rates beginning in July 2010 was much lower than 13.6 percent. Tilden and Empires rates increased by approximately $2.5 million, or 2.1 percent, on an annual basis in July 2010 over the rates in effect since February 2010. On August 2, 2010, Tilden and Empire filed a petition for rehearing with respect to certain issues in the rate case. On October 14, 2010, the MPSC granted, in part, Tilden and Empires petition for rehearing and directed that WEPCOs rates implemented in July 2010 be reduced. The rate reduction is projected to lower Tilden and Empires annual electric costs by approximately $200,000 below the annual electric costs that Tilden and Empire would have incurred under the rates implemented in July 2010. On November 12, 2010, Tilden and Empire filed a Claim of Appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals raising two issues, which if decided favorably to the mines could further reduce the mines annual electric costs. On December 28, 2010, the MPSC filed a motion for remand with the Court of Appeals requesting that the case be sent back to the MPSC for further clarification. This motion was denied in March 2011 and the briefing phase now has been completed. A final decision from the Court of Appeals is expected in mid-2012.
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 companys 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, our Company has developed an effective safety management system.
Under the recently enacted 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, the required mine safety results regarding certain mining safety and health matters for each of our mine locations that are covered under the scope of the Dodd-Frank Act are included in Exhibit 95 of Item 15 of the Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Stock Exchange Information
Our common shares (ticker symbol CLF) are listed on the NYSE and the Professional Segment of NYSE Euronext Paris.
Common Share Price Performance and Dividends
The following table sets forth, for the periods indicated, the high and low sales prices per common share as reported on the NYSE and the dividends declared per common share:
At February 13, 2012, we had 1,432 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 Stock Index; (3) S&P 500 Steel Group Index; and (4) S&P Midcap 400 Index. The values of each investment are based on price change plus reinvestment of all dividends report to shareholders.
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Summary of Financial and Other Statistical Data
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. and Subsidiaries
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. traces its corporate history back to 1847. Today, we are an international mining and natural resources company. A member of the S&P 500 Index, we are a major global iron ore producer and a significant producer of high- and low-volatile metallurgical coal. Our companys operations are organized according to product category and geographic location: U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, North American Coal, Asia Pacific Iron Ore, Asia Pacific Coal, Latin American Iron Ore, Ferroalloys, and our Global Exploration Group.
We have been executing a strategy designed to achieve scale in the mining industry and focused on serving the worlds largest and fastest growing steel markets. In the U.S. we operate five iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota, five metallurgical coal mines located in West Virginia and Alabama and one thermal coal mine located in West Virginia. We also operate two iron ore mines in Eastern Canada that provide iron ore to the seaborne market for Asian steel producers. Our Asia Pacific operations primarily are comprised of two iron ore mining complexes in Western Australia, serving the Asian iron ore markets with direct-shipping fines and lump ore, and a 45 percent economic interest in a coking and thermal coal mine located in Queensland, Australia. In Latin America, we have a 30 percent interest in Amapá, a Brazilian iron ore operation, and in Ontario, Canada, we have a major chromite project in the pre-feasibility stage of exploration. In addition, our Global Exploration Group is focused on early involvement in exploration activities to identify new world-class projects for future development or projects that add significant value to existing operations.
Our 2011 results were driven by increased steel production, higher demand and rising prices. Global crude steel production, the primary driver of our business, was up approximately five percent from 2010. This included increases of approximately nine and seven percent in China and the U.S., respectively, which are the two largest markets for the Company. China produced approximately 683 million metric tons of crude steel in 2011, representing approximately 46 percent of global production. The world price of iron ore is influenced heavily by international demand; and rising spot market prices for iron ore has reflected this trend.
Our consolidated revenues for 2011 increased to $6.8 billion, with net income from continuing operations per diluted share of $11.61. This compares with revenues of $4.7 billion and net income from continuing operations per diluted share of $7.51 in 2010. Based upon the recent shift in the industry toward shorter-term pricing arrangements linked to the spot market and away from the annual international benchmark pricing mechanism historically referenced in our customer supply agreements, pricing has continued to increase during 2011 compared to 2010. We have finalized short-term pricing arrangements with our Asia Pacific Iron Ore customers and we have reached final pricing settlements with the majority of our U.S. Iron Ore customers for the 2011 contract year. However, in some cases we are still working to revise components of the pricing calculations referenced within our supply agreements to incorporate new pricing mechanisms as a result of the changes to historical benchmark pricing. In addition, in April 2011, we reached a negotiated settlement with ArcelorMittal USA with respect to our previously disclosed arbitrations and litigation resulting in additional revenue recorded in 2011. Revenues during 2011 were also impacted by higher iron ore sales volumes in Eastern Canada and higher metallurgical and thermal coal sales volumes in the U.S. that were made available through our acquisition of Consolidated Thompson and CLCC during the second quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of 2010, respectively. In Asia Pacific, the demand for steelmaking raw materials remained strong throughout 2011 primarily led by demand from China.
Results in 2011 reflect strong performance at our operations around the world and improved pricing for our products. Our strong cash flow generation and positive outlook for our business are allowing us to resume our focus on investments in our assets, which will enable us to continue to pursue strategic objectives and enhance our long-term operating performance, while also providing us with greater confidence and the ability to increase our cash payouts to shareholders.
In 2011, we continued to align our balance sheet and enhance our financial flexibility to be consistent with our long-term financial growth goals and objectives, including the completion of a public offering of senior notes in the aggregate principal amount of $1.0 billion, the completion of a $1.25 billion five-year term loan, the
completion of a public offering of 10.35 million of our common shares that raised approximately $854 million and the execution of a five-year unsecured amended and restated multicurrency credit agreement that resulted in, among other things, a $1.75 billion revolving credit facility. The senior notes offering consisted of a $700 million 10-year tranche and a $300 million 30-year tranche completed in March and April 2011, respectively. The net proceeds from the senior notes offering and the term loan were used to fund a portion of the purchase price for the acquisition of Consolidated Thompson and to pay the related fees and expenses. A portion of the net proceeds from the public offering of our common shares were used to repay the $750 million of borrowings under the bridge credit facility, with the remainder of the net proceeds to be used for general corporate purposes. Proceeds from the revolving credit facility will be used to refinance existing indebtedness, to finance general working capital needs and for other general corporate purposes, including the funding of acquisitions. In August 2011, $250 million was drawn against the revolving credit facility in order to pay down a portion of the term loan. All amounts outstanding under the revolving credit facility were repaid in December 2011.
As a result of the acquisition of Consolidated Thompson, we have revised the number of our operating and reportable segments as determined under ASC 280. Our Companys primary operations are organized and managed according to product category and geographic location and now include: U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, North American Coal, Asia Pacific Iron Ore, Asia Pacific Coal, Latin American Iron Ore, Ferroalloys and our Global Exploration Group. Our historical presentation of segment information consisted of three reportable segments: North American Iron Ore, North American Coal and Asia Pacific Iron Ore. Our restated presentation consists of four reportable segments: U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, North American Coal and Asia Pacific Iron Ore. The amounts disclosed in NOTE 2 SEGMENT REPORTING reflects this restatement.
Growth Strategy and Strategic Transactions
Throughout 2011, we continued to increase our operating scale and presence as an international mining and natural resources company by maintaining our focus on integration and execution. Our strategy includes the continuing integration of our acquisition of Consolidated Thompson, which was acquired on May 12, 2011.
The acquisition reflects our strategy to build scale by owning expandable and exportable steelmaking raw material assets serving international markets. Through our acquisition of Consolidated Thompson, we now own and operate an iron ore mine and processing facility near Bloom Lake in Quebec, Canada that produces high quality iron ore concentrate. WISCO is a 25 percent partner in Bloom Lake. The initial design of Bloom Lake operations is to achieve a production rate of 8.0 million metric tons of iron ore concentrate per year. Additional capital investments were approved by our Board of Directors in January 2012 in order to increase the initial production rate to 16.0 million metric tons of iron ore concentrate per year. We also own two additional development properties, Lamêlée and Peppler Lake, in Quebec. All three of these properties are in proximity to our existing Canadian operations and will allow us to leverage our port facilities and supply this iron ore to the seaborne market. The acquisition also is expected to further diversify our existing customer base.
In addition to the integration of Consolidated Thompson, we have a number of capital projects underway in all of our reportable business segments. We believe these projects will continue to improve our operational performance, diversify our customer base and extend the reserve life of our portfolio of assets, all of which are necessary to sustain continued growth. Throughout 2012, we also will reinforce our global reorganization, as our leadership moves to an integrated global management structure.
We also expect to achieve growth through early involvement in exploration and development activities by partnering with junior mining companies, which provide us low-cost entry points for potentially significant reserve additions.
Results of Operations Consolidated
2011 Compared to 2010
The following is a summary of our consolidated results of operations for 2011 compared with 2010:
Revenue from Product Sales and Services
Sales revenue in 2011 increased $2.1 billion, or 45.1 percent from 2010. The increase in sales revenue primarily was due to higher pricing related to our iron ore segments. At our U.S. Iron Ore operating segment, in April 2011, we reached a negotiated settlement with ArcelorMittal USA with respect to our previously disclosed arbitrations and litigation regarding price re-opener entitlements for 2009 and 2010 and pellet nominations for 2010 and 2011. The settlement included a pricing true-up for pellet volumes delivered to certain ArcelorMittal USA steelmaking facilities in North America during both 2009 and 2010 and resulted in an additional $280.9 million of revenue at our U.S. Iron Ore operating segment during 2011. Revenues also included the impact of $23.4 million related to the finalization of pricing on sales for Algomas 2010 pellet nomination that occurred during the first half of 2011. Our realized sales price for our U.S. Iron Ore operations during 2011 was an average increase per ton of 40 percent over 2010, or an increase per ton of 28 percent excluding the impact of the arbitration settlement with ArcelorMittal USA. The realized sales price for our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore operations was on average a nine percent increase per metric ton for 2011 when compared to 2010. In 2011, our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore sales included both iron ore pellets and concentrate, whereas our 2010 sales only included iron ore pellets. The increase in our realized price during 2011 at our Asia Pacific Iron Ore operating segment was on average a 38 percent and 24 percent increase for lump and fines, respectively, over the prior year.
Higher sales volumes at our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore and North American Coal operating segments also contributed to the increase in our consolidated revenue for 2011. Compared to 2010, sales volumes increased over 100 percent at Eastern Canadian Iron Ore in 2011 due to increased sales of iron ore concentrate made available through our acquisition of Consolidated Thompson during the second quarter of 2011. In addition, sales volumes increased 26.6 percent at North American Coal in 2011 due to increased sales of metallurgical and thermal coal made available through our acquisition of CLCC during the third quarter of 2010.
Refer to Results of Operations Segment Information for additional information regarding the impact of specific factors that impacted revenue during the period.
Cost of Goods Sold and Operating Expenses
Cost of goods sold and operating expenses was $4.1 billion in 2011, an increase of $1.0 billion, or 30 percent compared with 2010. The increase primarily was attributable to higher sales volumes at our Eastern Canadian Iron Ore and North American Coal business operations as a result of acquisitions in 2011 and 2010, respectively. The increase in the sales volumes at Eastern Canadian Iron Ore, due to the acquisition of Consolidated Thompson, resulted in $431.0 million of additional costs in 2011, and the increase in sales volumes at North American Coal, due to the acquisition of CLCC, resulted in incremental cost increases of $138.7 million when compared to 2010. Cost of goods sold and operating expenses also were impacted by cost rate increases of $112.1 million, $61.6 million and $75.8 million, respectively, at U.S. Iron Ore, Eastern Canadian Iron Ore and Asia Pacific Iron Ore segments. These cost increases were primarily a result of higher expenditures on plant
repairs and maintenance, increased mining costs and higher energy costs in 2011. In addition, costs were negatively impacted by $72.2 million and $18.4 million of unfavorable foreign exchange rates at our Asia Pacific Iron Ore and Eastern Canadian Iron Ore segments, respectively, when compared to 2010.
Refer to Results of Operations Segment Information for additional information regarding the impact of specific factors that impacted our operating results during the period.
Other Operating Income (Expense)
Following is a summary of other operating income (expense) for 2011 and 2010: