Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (CLF) stated that its subsidiary United Taconite in Minnesota plans to ramp up production of iron ore pellet for the rest of 2009 with a moderate increase in steel demand in the last couple of months.

In its recent release, Cliffs announced plans to produce 15 million tons of iron ore in North America for the full year. The company plans to increase production from this month through October.

Mining operations will increase at the Thunderbird Mine in Eveleth, Minnesota this month and production will increase at the concentrator portion of the facility, located at the Fairland plant in Forbes, Minnesota in October. Full start-up of the Line 1 furnace is expected in November, which was idled in October last year.

The anticipated increase in production will allow more than 400 hourly workers to progress toward a 40-hour work week. United Taconite has been operating under a 32-hour work week since November 2008 when its operating furnaces in Hibbing and Eveleth were idled due to weak demand for iron ore in the steel making process.

United Taconite, which previously operated as EVTAC Mining Company was idled in 2003 after it filed for bankruptcy. Cliffs Natural Resources and Laiwu Steel Group purchased EVTAC and reopened it as United Taconite in December 2003. In July last year, Cliffs acquired Laiwu’s ownership interest and now wholly owns United Taconite.

Recently, Cliffs Natural named Janice Henry, former senior vice president and chief financial officer of Martin Marietta Materials Inc. (MLM) to its board of directors. Henry currently serves on the board of directors of North American Galvanizing & Coatings Inc. and previously served on the board of Inco Ltd., now known as Vale Inco, a subsidiary of the second largest mining company in the world, Vale SA (VALE), of Brazil. In June 2006, she retired from Martin Marietta Materials, where she had served as chief financial officer from 1994 through 2005.

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