UPDATE 1-Russia's Mechel temporarily idles U.S. coal arm

Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:58am EDT

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MOSCOW, April 29 (Reuters) - Russian coal miner Mechel said on Tuesday it had temporarily halted mining at its U.S. coal business Mechel Bluestone due to weak prices.

Mechel said all work at Bluestone's mines and open pits had been halted until market conditions improve, although washing facilities were still operating.

"Spot prices for coking coal are at their minimum since 2007, which makes coal production at Mechel Bluestone unprofitable. We will make the decision to re-launch depending on the market situation," the company said in a statement.

Mechel has been looking to sell Bluestone since the first half of 2013 in a bid to lower its more than $9 billion in debt.

Its Moscow-listed shares, which have lost more than 90 percent of their value since their early-2011 peak, were down 0.8 percent at 1020 GMT with New York yet to open. (Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; editing by Jason Neely)

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