UPDATE 1-Cliffs preparing to idle West Virginia coal mine

Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:29am EDT

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(Adds number of workers, background on mine)

June 25 (Reuters) - Miner Cliffs Natural Resources Inc plans to temporarily idle its Pinnacle metallurgical coal mine in West Virginia unless market conditions improve, the company said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

Cliffs, in the midst of a proxy fight with hedge fund Casablanca Capital which wants to replace its chief executive, said in a separate statement that an estimated 397 employees could be affected.

The Pinnacle mine started operating in 1969, and in 2013 it produced 2.8 million short tons of steelmaking coal. Located near Pineville, West Virginia, it is part of the Pinnacle complex, along with Green Ridge No. 1, closed permanently in 2010, and Green Ridge No. 2, idled in 2012.

A weak global steel industry has hurt the price of metallurgical coal, used to make steel. That's a particular challenge for older coal mines, which tend to have higher costs.

Cleveland-based Cliffs has notified workers, government agencies and the United Mine Workers of America that it could idle the mine for more than six months starting around Aug. 25, as required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification or WARN Act. (Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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