International mining and natural resources company Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (CLF) is expecting increased production and sales volume in its North American Business Unit, which includes its North American Iron Ore and North American Coal business segments.

Cliffs expects the North American Iron Ore business segment to recognize sales volume of about 16 million tons in 2009, higher than the previous guidance of 13 million to 14 million tons. North American Iron Ore equity production volume in 2009 is expected to be 17 million tons, up from a prior projection of 15 million tons.

Cliffs also raised its 2009 expected sales volume for its North American Coal business segment to about 1.8 million short tons from a previous expectation of 1.5 million tons. North American Coal production volume is expected to be 1.8 million tons, up from a previous expectation of 1.3 million tons. Cliffs operates coal mines in West Virginia and Alabama.

The higher near-term volume outlook is in response to recent blast furnace restarts in North America and Europe and seasonal inventory rebuilding. On Sept 3, Cliffs subsidiary United Taconite in Minnesota announced its plans to ramp up production of iron ore pellets for the rest of 2009, with a moderate increase in steel demand in the last couple of months.
Cliffs plans to produce 15 million tons of iron ore in North America for the full year. It 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. Line 1 furnace which was idled in October last year, is expected to start up fully in November.

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.

Earlier in August, Cliffs’ wholly owned subsidiary Pinnacle Mining Company, LLC recalled about 100 employees at its Pinnacle and Green Ridge No. 1 mines in West Virginia with improvement in coal demand. The Pinnacle Complex includes the Pinnacle, Green Ridge1 and Green Ridge 2 mines and the Pinnacle Preparation Plant. Both the Pinnacle and Green Ridge 1 mines had halted production during Feb 2009. The production shutdown affected approximately 360 employees. The mines produce metallurgical coal for the steel industry.

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