Cliffs Natural Resources considers sale of North American coal mines

US coal and iron-ore miner Cliffs Natural Resources yesterday said that it was considering a sale of its North American coal mines.

While announcing its first-quarter 2015 earnings, the Cleveland-based company said, ''As of March 31, 2015, management has determined that the North American Coal operating segment met the criteria to be classified as held for sale. This determination was made in light of North American Coal's treatment as a non-core, non-strategic asset that the Company expects to sell.''

Cliffs produces low-volatile coking coal in the US from its mines located in West Virginia and Alabama.

Cliffs, which competes with international mining and natural resources companies like Vale, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, operates the Oak Grove coal mine in Alabama and Pinnacle coal mine in West Virginia.

Both these coal mines are located near rail or barge lines providing access to international shipping ports for export to integrated steel and coke producers in North America, Europe, China, India and South America.

During 2014, 2013 and 2012, Cliffs sold 7.4 million, 7.3 million and 6.5 million tons of coal, respectively, from its North American Coal mines.

Its North American Coal sales volume in the first quarter of 2015 was 1.3 million tons, a 15 per cent decrease compared to 1.6 million tons in the first quarter of 2014. The decrease was due to the recent sale of its Cliffs Logan County Coal mine.

Cliffs, a member of the S&P 500 Index, is the largest producer of iron ore pellets in North America, a major supplier of direct-shipping lump and fines iron ore out of Australia and a significant producer of metallurgical coal.

Its operations are split according to product category and geographic location: iron ore in North American, Asia Pacific and Latin American, and coal in North America.