Cliffs Natural Resources announced on March 11, that it expects to idle its Wabush Pointe Noire pellet plant within the city of Sept-Îles, Quebec, by the end of the second quarter of 2013. The company said the decision was due to high production costs and lower pellet premium pricing, which it expects to persist in certain markets this year.

Cliffs currently produces both iron ore concentrate and pellets at its eastern Canadian iron ore operations, which include the Wabush and Bloom Lake mines and the pellet plant and rail and port facilities at Pointe Noire. After idling the pellet plant, the company will transition to producing only iron ore concentrate at its Wabush mine in Newfoundland and Labrador. The company will continue to operate the rail and port operations at Pointe Noire and will proceed with a multi-year port expansion project that includes a ship loader for Capesize vessels.

For 2013, Cliffs is maintaining its full-year sales and production volume expectations of 9 million to 10 million mt out of its eastern Canada business segment. This will include about 3 million mt of both iron ore pellets and concentrate products from its Wabush operation, with Bloom Lake supplying the remainder.

Cliffs announced on November 19, 2012, that it was delaying portions of its Bloom Lake mine Phase II expansion and idling some production at two of its U.S. iron ore operations, Northshore Mining in Minnesota and the Empire mine in Michigan. These production cuts were driven by increased iron ore pricing volatility and lower North American steelmaking utilization rates, the company said at that time.