Cliffs Natural puts Ontario chromite project on hold

June 12 Wed Jun 12, 2013 7:09am EDT

June 12 (Reuters) - Cliffs Natural Resources Inc said it was temporarily stopping environmental assessment for its $3.3 billion chromite project in northwestern Ontario due to unresolved land rights and unfinished agreements with the provincial government.

Cliffs, primarily an iron ore and coal producer, plans to develop North America's first major chromite mine in a remote cluster of rich mineral deposits called the 'Ring of Fire'.

Chromite is refined into ferrochrome, which is used to make stainless steel. The project includes a $600 million highway.

"... Given the current unresolved issues, we cannot and will not unilaterally move the process forward and must manage our resources appropriately," Bill Boor, senior vice president for global ferroalloys, said on Wednesday.

Cliffs has been battered by weak iron ore prices. Relatively high-cost iron ore producers like Cliffs have been particularly hit as soft Chinese demand weighs on companies that supply steelmakers.

The Cleveland-based company's shares closed at $17.50 on Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has plunged about 64 percent in the past year.

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