Cliffs stands by Halverson – by Carl Clutchey (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – February 19, 2014)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

Though some shareholders of Cliffs Natural Resources have been calling for his replacement, the Sudbury native who put the brakes on what had been expected to be the first operating mine in the Ring of Fire has been given a promotion.

Cleveland-based Cliffs last week elevated Gary Halverson so that he is the company’s CEO as well as president. Halverson, 55, was hired in November as Cliffs’ president and chief operating officer.

“We are confident that Gary is the right candidate to lead Cliffs, given his proven experience with international and long-term mining operations and understanding of the global commodities industry,” said a Cliffs news release.

A few days after Halverson was hired, Cliffs announced that it was stopping all pre-development work on a proposed ROF chromite mine about 550 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. Chromite is a key ingredient in stainless steel.

Earlier this month, as Cliffs endured mounting criticism from shareholders over its falling stock price, Halverson cut $90 million from the company’s exploration budget and announced the idling of its Wabush iron-mine in Newfoundland.

One New York investment firm said such measures weren’t enough and recommended former Metals USA president Lourenco Goncalves lead Cliffs.

Following his appointment as Cliffs CEO, Halverson said he’s up to the job.

“I am focused on operational excellence and financial discipline in order to reposition the company for success,” he said in the Cliffs news release.

Cliffs, which had been unable to secure an access road into the Ring of Fire, spent $500 million in pre-development work on the project.

It’s appeal of a decision by Ontario Mining and Lands Commission to disallow the road is to take place in June in Divisional Court.

The chromite mine was slated to create more than 1,000 direct jobs once a transportation network and Sudbury-area smelter were factored in.