Cliffs selling off biomass plant; stock rises 2.8 percent

CLEVELAND, Ohio ― Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. said it is looking to sell its biomass production facility in Michigan to focus on its core iron-ore and coal business.

The company, whose stock rose 2.8 percent in premarket trading on Tuesday, said it will take a $30 million pretax, mostly non-cash charge in the third quarter as a result of idling the Marquette, Mich., facility.

The renewaFUEL plant was constructed to produce high-energy, low-emission biofuel cubes from sustainably collected wood and agricultural feed stocks. But it has not performed to design capacity or at a production level that justifies continued operation, the company said.

It said it is exploring strategic options for the facility, which it acquired in 2007 and which employs about 30 full-time workers.

Cliffs said it will make every effort to reassign the employees at the plant to other positions within the company.David Blake, senior vice president for North American iron ore and the Cliffs executive with operational responsibility for renewaFUEL, said the company had decided to focus on its core business of producing raw material for steelmaking.

“It is essential that our management focus and allocation of capital resources be deployed where we can have the most impact for all stakeholders,” he said in a statement.