Quebec prepared to buy rail to help rescue iron-ore mine – by Sonja Elmquist and Frederic Tomesco (Bloomberg News/Montreal Gazette – May 5, 2015)

Quebec is prepared to buy a rail line and port facilities that service a shuttered Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. iron-ore mine to pave the way for the operation to reopen under new owners.

The government also is open to buying 20 percent of the Bloom Lake mine to facilitate a deal, Economy Minister Jacques Daoust said. Purchasing the rail and port facilities could lower the mine’s operating costs by as much as $20 a ton, he said.

“We’re trying to ensure the survival of the mine,” Daoust said Friday in an interview at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “If the last 20 percent is a problem, I will fix it.”

Cliffs suspended production at Bloom Lake in January and sought creditor protection for the operation. That put pressure on the Quebec government, which wants to boost economic activity in Cote-Nord, a region with 10.7 percent unemployment. Bloom Lake employed about 600 people when it was operational, according to Investissement Quebec, a government agency.

As recently as 2013, Bloom Lake was considered a critical part of Cleveland-based Cliffs’ strategy to build its export business to mitigate its dependence on U.S. customers. The largest U.S. iron-ore producer bought the mine in 2011, when prices topped $190 a ton. Prices have since plunged to as low as $47.08 a ton last month, according to Metal Bulletin.

Bloom Lake has never been profitable since its acquisition by Cliffs, according to a Jan. 26 court filing.

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