The Daily Magic Formula Stock for 12/06/2008 is Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. According to the Magic Formula Investing Web Site, the ebit yield is 29% and the EBIT ROIC is 25-50 %.
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Founded in 1847, Cleveland-Cliffs is an international mining company, the largest producer of iron ore pellets in North America and a supplier of metallurgical coal to the global steelmaking industry. The Company operates six iron ore mines in Michigan, Minnesota and Eastern Canada, and three coking coal mines in West Virginia and Alabama. Cliffs also owns 80.4 percent of Portman, a large iron ore mining company in Australia, serving the Asian iron ore markets with direct-shipping fines and lump ore. In addition, the Company has a 30 percent interest in the AmapĂˇ Project, a Brazilian iron ore project, and a 45 percent economic interest in the Sonoma Project, an Australian coking and thermal coal project.
In recent years, we have undergone a strategic transformation to an international mining company from our historic business model as a mine manager for the integrated steel industry in North America. Through a series of acquisitions and joint venture partnerships, the transformation has included our pursuit of geographic and mineral diversification, with a focus on providing raw materials to the steelmaking industry.
In April 2005, we completed the acquisition of Portman. The acquisition increased our customer base in China and Japan and established our presence in the Australian mining industry.
In March 2007, we acquired a 30 percent interest in MMX AmapĂˇ MineraĂ§ĂŁo Ltda., a Brazilian limited liability company developing an iron ore project (AmapĂˇ Project). The remaining 70 percent of the AmapĂˇ Project is owned by MMX, which also serves as the manager of the AmapĂˇ Project. In January 2008, Anglo-American plc entered into a period of exclusive discussions with the controlling shareholder of MMX to purchase a controlling interest in MMXâ€™s current 51 percent interest in the Minas-Rio iron ore project and its 70 percent interest in the AmapĂˇ Project. The proposed transaction is subject to a number of terms and conditions, including MMX board and regulatory approvals and the negotiation of definitive transaction documents. MMX will be required to obtain security holder approval for completion of the transaction.
In April 2007, we completed the acquisition of a 45 percent economic interest in Sonoma in Queensland, Australia.
In June 2007, we entered into an alliance whereby Kobe Steel agreed to license its patented ITmk3 Â® iron-making technology to us. The alliance, which has a 10-year term, provides Cliffs a technology to convert its low-grade iron ore reserves to high-purity iron nuggets that can be used in an electric arc furnace, a market in which we do not currently compete.
In July 2007, we completed our acquisition of PinnOak, a privately-owned U.S. mining company with three high-quality, low-volatile metallurgical coal mines. The acquisition furthers our growth strategy and expands our diversification of products for the integrated steel industry.
In the past, we evaluated segment results based on segment operating income. As a result of the PinnOak acquisition and our focus on reducing production costs, we now evaluate segment performance based on sales margin, defined as revenues less cost of goods sold identifiable to each segment.
We are currently organized into three reportable business segments: North America Iron Ore, North American Coal and Asia-Pacific Iron Ore. Financial information about our segments is included in Item 7 and NOTE 4 â€” SEGMENT REPORTING â€” included in Item 8 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
North American Iron Ore
We are the largest producer of iron ore pellets in North America and sell virtually all of our production to integrated steel companies in the United States and Canada. We manage and operate six North American iron ore mines located in Michigan, Minnesota and Eastern Canada that currently have a rated capacity of 37 million tons of iron ore pellet production annually, representing approximately 45 percent of total North American pellet production capacity. Based on our percentage ownership of the North American mines we operate, our share of the rated pellet production capacity is currently 22.9 million tons annually, representing approximately 28 percent of total North American annual pellet capacity.
For the year ended December 31, 2007, we produced a total of 34.6 million tons of iron ore pellets, including 21.8 million tons for our account and 12.8 million tons on behalf of steel company owners of the mines.
We produce 13 grades of iron ore pellets, including standard, fluxed and high manganese, for use in our customersâ€™ blast furnaces as part of the steelmaking process. The variation in grades results from the specific chemical and metallurgical properties of the ores at each mine and whether or not fluxstone is added in the process. Although the grade or grades of pellets currently delivered to each customer are based on that customerâ€™s preferences, which depend in part on the characteristics of the customerâ€™s blast furnace operation, in many cases our iron ore pellets can be used interchangeably. Industry demand for the various grades of iron ore pellets depends on each customerâ€™s preferences and changes from time to time. In the event that a given mine is operating at full capacity, the terms of most of our pellet supply agreements allow some flexibility to provide our customers iron ore pellets from different mines.
Standard pellets require less processing, are generally the least costly pellets to produce and are called â€śstandardâ€ť because no ground fluxstone ( i.e. , limestone, dolomite, etc.) is added to the iron ore concentrate before turning the concentrates into pellets. In the case of fluxed pellets, fluxstone is added to the concentrate, which produces pellets that can perform at higher productivity levels in the customerâ€™s specific blast furnace and will minimize the amount of fluxstone the customer may be required to add to the blast furnace. â€śHigh manganeseâ€ť pellets are the pellets produced at our Canadian Wabush operation where there is more natural manganese in the crude ore than is found at our other operations. The manganese contained in the iron ore mined at Wabush cannot be entirely removed during the concentrating process. Wabush produces pellets with two levels of manganese, both in standard and fluxed grades.
It is not possible to produce pellets with identical physical and chemical properties from each of our mining and processing operations. The grade or grades of pellets purchased by and delivered to each customer are based on that customerâ€™s preferences and availability.
Each of our North American iron ore mines are located near the Great Lakes or, in the case of Wabush, near the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is connected to the Great Lakes. The majority of our iron ore pellets are transported via railroads to loading ports for shipment via vessel to steelmakers in the U.S. or Canada.
North American Iron Ore Customers
Our North American Iron Ore revenues are derived from sales of iron ore pellets to the North American integrated steel industry, consisting of eight customers. Generally, we have multi-year supply agreements with our customers. Sales volume under these agreements is largely dependent on customer requirements, and in many cases, we are the sole supplier of iron ore pellets to the customer. Each agreement has a base price that is adjusted annually using one or more adjustment factors. Factors that can adjust price include international pellet prices, measures of general industrial inflation and steel prices. One of our supply agreements has a provision that limits the amount of price increase or decrease in any given year.
North American Iron Ore Term Supply Agreements
Our term supply agreements in North America expire between the end of 2011 and the end of 2018. The weighted average remaining duration is seven years.
Our North American Iron Ore sales are influenced by seasonal factors in the first quarter of the year as shipments and sales are restricted by weather conditions on the Great Lakes. During the first quarter, we continue to produce our products, but we cannot ship those products via lake freighter until the Great Lakes are passable, which causes our first quarter inventory levels to rise. Our limited practice of shipping product to ports on the lower Great Lakes and/or to customersâ€™ facilities prior to the transfer of title has somewhat mitigated the seasonal effect on first quarter inventories and sales. At both December 31, 2007 and 2006, we had approximately 0.8 million tons of pellets in inventory at lower lakes or customersâ€™ facilities.
On March 19, 2007, we executed an umbrella agreement with ArcelorMittal USA, a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, that covers significant price and volume matters under three separate pre-existing iron ore pellet supply agreements for ArcelorMittal USAâ€™s Cleveland and Indiana Harbor West, Indiana Harbor East and Weirton facilities. This umbrella agreement formalizes a previously disclosed letter agreement dated April 12, 2006.
Under terms of the umbrella agreement, some of the terms of the separate pellet sale and purchase agreements for each of the above facilities were modified to aggregate ArcelorMittal USAâ€™s purchases during the years 2006 through 2010. The pricing provisions of the umbrella agreement are determined in accordance with the individual supply agreements that were in place for each of the facilities at the time it was executed.
During 2006 through 2010, ArcelorMittal USA is obligated to purchase specified minimum tonnages of iron ore pellets on an aggregate basis. The umbrella agreement also sets the minimum annual tonnage at ArcelorMittal USAâ€™s approximately budgeted usage levels through 2010, with pricing based on the facility to which the pellets are delivered. Beginning in 2007, the terms of the umbrella agreement allow ArcelorMittal USA to manage its ore inventory levels through buydown provisions, which permit it to reduce its tonnage purchase obligation each year at a specified price per ton, and through deferral provisions, which permit ArcelorMittal USA to defer a portion of its annual tonnage purchase obligation beginning in 2007. ArcelorMittal USA has opted to defer the purchase of 550,000 tons from 2007 to 2008. The umbrella agreement also provides for consistent nomination procedures through 2010 across all three iron ore pellet supply agreements.
In 2005, ArcelorMittal USA shut down ArcelorMittal-Weirtonâ€™s blast furnace. The Weirton Contract had a minimum annual purchase obligation from ArcelorMittal-Weirton to purchase iron ore pellets for the years 2006 through and including 2018, with a minimum annual purchase obligation of two million tons per year. The ArcelorMittal-Weirton blast furnace has been permanently shut down and to the best of our knowledge will not be restarted. The umbrella agreement eliminated the Weirton minimum purchase obligation.
ArcelorMittal USA is a 62.3 percent equity participant in Hibbing and a 21 percent equity partner in Empire with limited rights and obligations and a 28.6 percent participant in Wabush. In 2007, 2006 and 2005 our North American Iron Ore pellet sales to ArcelorMittal USA were 10.3, 9.1, and 10.7 million tons, respectively.
Algoma, a Canadian steelmaker, is a subsidiary of Essar Steel Holdings Limited. We have a 15-year term supply agreement under which we are Algomaâ€™s sole supplier of iron ore pellets through 2016 (the â€śAlgoma Agreementâ€ť). Our annual obligation is capped at four million tons with our option to supply additional pellets. Pricing under the Algoma Agreement is based on a formula which includes international pellet prices (the â€śPricing Formulaâ€ť). The Algoma Agreement also provides that, in certain years, either party may request a price negotiation (â€śReopener Yearsâ€ť) if prices under the Algoma Agreement differ from a specified benchmark price. The Reopener Years are 2008, 2011, and 2014. On January 3, 2008, Algoma requested price renegotiation for 2008. We have 60 days from the date of Algomaâ€™s request to negotiate a mutually agreed upon sales price for 2008. If, after the expiration of this negotiation period, we are unable to agree on a negotiated price for 2008, either party has the right to initiate arbitration for purposes of determining the price for 2008. The price determined in the arbitration would be effective only for 2008. Prices for 2009 and 2010 would be determined in accordance with the original terms of the Algoma Agreement. In June 2007, Essar Global Limited, through its wholly owned subsidiary Essar Steel Holdings Limited, completed its acquisition of Algoma for C$1.85 billion. We do not expect the acquisition to affect our term supply agreement with Algoma. We sold 2.9 million, 3.5 million and 3.8 million tons to Algoma in 2007, 2006 and 2005, respectively.
In January 2006, we entered into an agreement whereby we are the sole supplier of iron ore pellets through 2012 to Severstal. This agreement contains certain minimum purchase requirements for certain years. We sold 3.0 million, 3.7 million and 3.6 million tons to Severstal in 2007, 2006 and 2005, respectively.
On January 5, 2008, Severstal experienced an explosion and fire on the smaller of its two operating furnaces that partially curtailed production at their North American facility. We have not determined the impact of this incident on projected 2008 iron ore shipments.
On October 14, 2004, we and WCI reached agreement (the â€ś2004 Pellet Agreementâ€ť) for us to supply 1.4 million tons of iron ore pellets in 2005 and, in 2006 and thereafter, to supply 100 percent of WCIâ€™s annual requirements up to a maximum of two million tons of iron ore pellets. The 2004 Pellet Agreement is for a ten-year term, which commenced on January 1, 2005.
On May 1, 2006, an entity controlled by the secured noteholders of WCI acquired the steelmaking assets and business of WCI (â€śNew WCIâ€ť). New WCI assumed the 2004 Pellet Agreement. We sold 1.5 million, 1.6 million and 1.4 million tons to New WCI in 2007, 2006 and 2005, respectively.
U.S. Steel Canada
U.S. Steel Canada (formerly Stelco) is a 44.6 percent participant in Wabush, and U.S. subsidiaries of U.S. Steel Canada own 14.7 percent of Hibbing and 15 percent of Tilden.
In December 2006, we executed a binding pellet supply term sheet with U.S. Steel Canada with respect to a seven-year supply agreement to provide their Lake Erie Steel and Hamilton Steel facilities excess pellet requirements above the amount supplied from their ownership interest at Hibbing, Tilden and Wabush. Pellet sales to U.S. Steel Canada totaled 1.2 million, 0.9 million and 1.4 million tons in 2007, 2006 and 2005, respectively.
North American Coal
Cliffs is a supplier of metallurgical coal in North America. We own and operate three North American coal mines located in West Virginia and Alabama that currently have a rated capacity of 6.5 million short tons of production annually. For the five months ended December 31, 2007, we sold a total of 1.2 million tons.
All three of our North American coal mines are positioned near rail or barge lines providing access to international shipping ports, which allows for export of our coal production.
North American Coal Customers
North American Coalâ€™s production is sold to global integrated steel and coke producers in Europe, South America and North America. Approximately 90 percent of our 2008 production is committed under one-year contracts. Customer contracts in North America typically are negotiated on a calendar year basis with international contracts negotiated as of March 31.
Exports and domestic sales represented 66 percent and 34 percent, respectively, of our North American Coal sales in 2007. No customer comprised more than 10 percent of our consolidated sales.
Asia-Pacific Iron Ore
Our Asia-Pacific Iron Ore segment is comprised of Portman, an Australian iron ore mining company. The minority interest ownership of the company is publicly held and traded on the Australian Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol â€śPMMâ€ť.
Portmanâ€™s operations are in Western Australia and include its 100 percent owned Koolyanobbing mine and its 50 percent equity interest in Cockatoo Island. Portman serves the Asian iron ore markets with direct-shipping fines and lump ore. Production in 2007 (excluding its 0.7 million tonne share of Cockatoo Island) was 7.7 million tonnes.
These two operations supply a total of four direct shipping export products to Asia via the global seaborne trade market. Koolyanobbing produces a standard lump and fines product as well as low grade fines product. Cockatoo Island produces and exports a single premium fines product. Portman lump products are directly charged to the blast furnace, while the fines products are used as sinter feed. The variation in Portmanâ€™s four export product grades reflects the inherent chemical and physical characteristics of the ore bodies mined as well as the supply requirements of the customers.
Koolyanobbing is a collective term for the operating deposits at Koolyanobbing, Mount Jackson and Windarling. The project is located 425 kilometers east of Perth and approximately 50 kilometers northeast of the town of Southern Cross. There are approximately 100 kilometers separating the three mining areas. Banded iron formation hosts the mineralization which is predominately hematite and goethite. Each deposit is characterized with different chemical and physical attributes and in order to achieve customer product quality; ore in varying quantities from each deposit must be blended together.
Blending is undertaken at Koolyanobbing, where the crushing and screening plant is located. Standard and low grade products are produced in separate campaigns. Once the blended ore has been crushed and screened into a direct shipping product, it is transported by rail approximately 575 kilometers south to the Port of Esperance for shipment to Asian customers.
Cockatoo Island is located off the Kimberley coast of Western Australia, approximately 1,900 kilometers north of Perth and is only accessible by sea and air. Cockatoo Island produces a single high iron product known as Cockatoo Island Premium Fines. The deposit is almost pure hematite and contains very few contaminants enabling the shipping grade to be above 68 percent iron. Ore is mined below the sea level on the southern edge of the island. This is facilitated by a sea wall which enables mining to a depth of 40 meters below sea level. Ore is crushed and screened to the final product sizing. Vessels berth at the island and the fines product is loaded directly to the ship. Cockatoo Island Premium Fines are highly sought in the global marketplace due to its extremely high iron grade and low valueless mineral content. Production at Cockatoo Island is expected to continue into the second quarter of 2008, with shipments to end in the third quarter of 2008.
Asia-Pacific Iron Ore Customers
Portmanâ€™s production is fully committed to steel companies in China and Japan through 2012. A limited spot market exists for seaborne iron ore as most production is sold under long-term contracts with annual benchmark prices driven from negotiations between the major suppliers and Chinese, Japanese and other Asian steel mills. The three major iron ore producers, Vale, Rio Tinto and BHP, dominate the seaborne iron ore trade and together account for approximately three-quarters of the global supply to the seaborne market.
Portman has long-term supply agreements with steel producers in China and Japan that account for approximately 74 percent and 26 percent, respectively, of sales. Sales volume under the agreements is partially dependent on customer requirements. Each agreement is priced based on benchmark pricing established for Australian producers.
During 2007, 2006 and 2005, we sold 8.1 million, 7.4 million and 4.9 million tonnes of iron ore, respectively, from our Western Australia mines. (Sales for 2005 represent amounts since the March 31, 2005 acquisition of Portman).
Sales in 2007 were to 17 Chinese and three Japanese customers. No customer comprised more than 15 percent of Asia-Pacific Iron Ore sales or 10 percent of our consolidated sales in 2007, 2006 or 2005. Portmanâ€™s five largest customers accounted for approximately 47 percent of Portmanâ€™s sales in 2007, 46 percent in 2006 and 50 percent in 2005.
In addition to the Companyâ€™s reportable business segments, we are partner to a number of projects, including the AmapĂˇ Iron Ore Project in Brazil and the Sonoma Coal Project in Australia.
We are a 30 percent minority interest owner in the AmapĂˇ Project which consists of a significant iron ore deposit, a 192-kilometer railway connecting the mine location to an existing port facility and 71 hectares of real estate on the banks of the Amazon River, reserved for a loading terminal. The AmapĂˇ Project initiated production in late-December 2007. It is expected that completion of the construction of the concentrator and ramp-up of production will occur in 2008. It is estimated that AmapĂˇ will produce and sell between three and four million tonnes of iron ore fines products in 2008 and 6.5 million tonnes annually once fully operational. The majority of AmapĂˇâ€™s production is committed under a long-term supply agreement with an operator of an iron oxide pelletizing plant in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
We are a 45 percent economic interest owner in the Sonoma Coal Project in Queensland, Australia. The project is currently operating and expected to produce approximately two million tonnes of coal in 2008 and three to four million tonnes of coal annually in 2009 and beyond. Production will include a mix of hard coking coal and thermal coal. The Sonoma Coal Project has economically recoverable reserves of 27 million tonnes. All 2008 production is committed under supply agreements with customers in Asia.
The Iron Ore, Metallurgical Coal and Steel Industries
Almost all iron ore and metallurgical coal is used in steelmaking and therefore is dependent on the steel industry. Global crude steel production broke the 100 million tonne per month level for the first time in March 2006. Production in 2007 for the 67 countries reporting to the International Iron and Steel Institute increased approximately seven percent over 2006. The growing level of international production is largely due to the rapid industrial growth in China.
China produced 489 million tonnes of crude steel in 2007, up 15 percent over 2006, accounting for approximately 37 percent of global production.
The rapid growth in steel production in China has only been partially met by a corresponding increase in domestic Chinese iron ore production. Chinese iron ore deposits, although substantial, are of a lower grade (less than half of the equivalent iron ore content) than the current iron ore supplied from Brazil and Australia.
The world price of iron ore is influenced by international demand. The rapid growth in Chinese demand, particularly in more recent years, has created a market imbalance and has led to demand outstripping supply. This market imbalance has recently led to high spot prices for natural iron ore and increases of 9.5 percent, 19 percent and 71.5 percent in 2007, 2006 and 2005, respectively, in benchmark prices for Brazilian and Australian suppliers of iron ore. In mid-February 2008, Japanâ€™s Nippon Steel and South Koreaâ€™s Posco agreed with Vale to a 65 percent increase in the price for fines. The increased demand for iron ore has resulted in the major iron ore suppliers expanding efforts to increase their capacity.
We compete with several iron ore producers in North America, including Iron Ore Company of Canada, Quebec Cartier Mining Company and U.S. Steel, as well as other steel companies that own interests in iron ore mines that may have excess iron ore inventories. In the coal industry, we compete with many metallurgical coal producers including Alpha Natural Resources, Massey Energy, Jim Walter Resources, Peabody Energy, CONSOL and others.
As the North American steel industry continues to consolidate, a major focus of the consolidation is on the continued life of the integrated steel industryâ€™s raw steelmaking operations ( i.e. , blast furnaces and basic oxygen furnaces that produce raw steel). In addition, other competitive forces have become a large factor in the iron ore business. Electric furnaces built by mini-mills, which are steel recyclers, generally produce steel by using scrap steel and reduced-iron products, not iron ore pellets, in their electric furnaces.
Competition among the sellers of iron ore pellets and metallurgical coal is predicated upon the usual competitive factors of price, availability of supply, product performance, service and transportation cost to the consumer.
Portman exports iron ore products to China and Japan in the world seaborne trade. Portman competes with major iron ore exporters from Australia, Brazil and India.
Various governmental bodies are continually promulgating new laws and regulations affecting us, our customers, and our suppliers in many areas, including waste discharge and disposal, hazardous classification of materials and products, air and water discharges, and many other environmental, health, and safety matters. Although we believe that our environmental policies and practices are sound and do not expect that the application of any current laws or regulations would reasonably be expected to result in a material adverse effect on our business or financial condition, we cannot predict the collective adverse impact of the expanding body of laws and regulations.
Specifically, proposals for voluntary initiatives and mandatory controls are being discussed both in the United States and worldwide to reduce greenhouse gases â€” most notably carbon dioxide, a by-product of burning fossil fuels and other industrial processes. Although the outcome of these efforts remains uncertain, we have proactively engaged outside experts to more formally develop a comprehensive, enterprise-wide greenhouse gas management strategy. The comprehensive strategy is aimed at considering all significant aspects associated with greenhouse gas initiatives and optimizing our regulatory, operational, and financial impacts and/or opportunities. We will continue to monitor developments related to efforts to register and potentially regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
North American Iron Ore
In the construction of our facilities and in their operation, substantial costs have been incurred and will continue to be incurred to avoid undue effect on the environment. Our North American capital expenditures relating to environmental matters were $8.8 million, $10.5 million, and $9.2 million in 2007, 2006 and 2005, respectively. It is estimated that approximately $10.8 million will be spent in 2008 for capital environmental control facilities.
The iron ore industry has been identified by the EPA as an industrial category that emits pollutants established by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. These pollutants included over 200 substances that are now classified as HAP. The EPA is required to develop rules that would require major sources of HAP to utilize MACT standards for their emissions. Pursuant to this statutory requirement, the EPA published a final rule on October 30, 2003 imposing emission limitations and other requirements on taconite iron ore processing operations. On December 15, 2005, we and Ispat-Inland Mining Company filed a Petition to Delete as a source category regulated by Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. The EPA requested additional information, and a supplement was submitted to the EPA on August 22, 2006. A response is pending.
On March 10, 2005, the EPA issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule final regulations and on March 15, 2005, the EPA issued the Clean Air Mercury Rule. The rules establish phased reductions of NOx, SO 2 and mercury from electric power generating stations. Accordingly, Cliffs anticipates that it will incur capital and ongoing emission allowance costs at its Silver Bay Power Plant to maintain compliance with the rule. As Cliffs is still optimizing its various options for compliance, we cannot accurately estimate the timing or cost of emission controls at this time.
On December 16, 2006, we submitted an administrative permit amendment application to the MPCA with respect to Northshoreâ€™s Title V operating permit. The proposed amendment requested the deletion of a 30-year old â€ścontrol cityâ€ť monitoring requirement which was used to assess the adequacy of air emission control equipment installed in the 1970s. MPCA had discontinued use of control city monitoring in the early 1980s, but had recently reinstituted monitoring. The control city monitoring compared ambient fiber levels in St. Paul, Minnesota to levels at Northshore and the surrounding area. The administrative permit amendment application argued that the control city monitoring requirement is an obsolete and redundant standard given Northshoreâ€™s existing emission control equipment and applicable federal regulations, state rules, and permit requirements.
We received a letter dated February 23, 2007 from the MPCA notifying us that our proposed permit amendment had been denied. We have appealed the denial to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Subsequent to the filing of our appeal, the MPCA advised Northshore that the MPCA considered Northshore to be in violation of the control city standard. In addition, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy intervened in our appeal of the denial of a proposed permit amendment to our Title V operating permit. Oral arguments on our appeal were held on February 21, 2008.
If either our appeal is unsuccessful or if we are unable to negotiate an acceptable compliance schedule, Northshore could be subject to future enforcement actions with respect to its Title V operating permit if we are unable to meet the permit requirements as interpreted by MPCA.
North American Coal
In 1996 and 1997, two cases were brought alleging that dust from the Concord Preparation Plant damaged properties in the area. In 2002, the parties entered into settlement agreements with the former owner in exchange for a lump sum payment and the agreement to implement remedial measures. However, the plaintiffs were not required to dismiss their claims. PinnOak was added to these cases in 2004 and 2006. The plaintiffs in these matters are now seeking additional remediation measures and we are opposing this assertion and believe that any amounts ultimately paid in this matter will not be material. In addition to the two cases noted above, in 2004 approximately 160 individual plaintiffs brought an action against PinnOak asserting injuries arising from particulate emissions from the Concord Preparation Plant. PinnOak is seeking a summary judgment in this most recent matter because it had previously been concluded under the 2002 settlement agreement.
In 2006, 13 plaintiffs brought an action against PinnOak related to the operation of the Concord Preparation Plant. These plaintiffs assert that dangerous levels of coal dust emissions have been allowed to accumulate at that facility. We deny this allegation and are defending the matter vigorously.
Since the acquisition of the PinnOak properties in 2007, we are evaluating ways to improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of our coal operations. Included in these evaluations are ways to reduce refuse and air emissions from preparation plants and maintaining the quality of water in and around our properties.
Asia-Pacific Iron Ore
Environmental issues and their management continued to be an important focus at our Asia-Pacific iron ore operations throughout 2007. Mining operations proceeded without major environmental incidents. Implementation of management controls at the Koolyanobbing operations continued, and a significant milestone was achieved with the certification of the environmental management system to the international standard ISO 14001.
A third-party compliance review of the Koolyanobbing operations was undertaken during 2007. The Koolyanobbing operations are among the most heavily regulated mining operations in Western Australia, with environmental conditions set at both State and Federal government levels. The review audited compliance with over 200 regulatory conditions and management plan commitments. A high level of compliance was achieved across all areas. Nine items of non-compliance were reported, with most being non-material in terms of environmental risk. Work commenced to address these items, including improved blasting procedures, the initiation of a project to quantify dust emission sources and the inclusion of soil assessment protocols in waste dump planning.
The Asia-Pacific iron ore environmental team was strengthened during the year to ensure that both the current mine operations continue to be well managed and that expansion plans receive timely environmental assessment and approvals.
Based upon information received from the respective Directors and nominees as of March 17, 2008, the following information is furnished with respect to each person nominated for election as a Director.
RONALD C. CAMBRE, 69, Former Chairman of the Board of Newmont Mining Corporation, an international mining company, from January 1995 through December 2001. Mr. Cambre also served as Chief Executive Officer of Newmont Mining Corporation, from November 1993 to December 2000. Mr. Cambre is a Director of W. R. Grace & Co. and McDermott International, Inc. 1996
JOSEPH A. CARRABBA, 55, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer since May 8, 2007. Mr. Carrabba served as our President and Chief Executive Officer from September 2006 through May 8, 2007 and as our President and Chief Operating Officer from May 2005 to September 2006. Mr. Carrabba previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Diavik Diamond Mines, Inc. from April 2003 to May 2005 and General Manager of Weipa Bauxite Operation of Comalco Aluminum from March 2000 to April 2003, both subsidiaries of Rio Tinto plc., an international mining group. Mr. Carrabba is a Director of Newmont Mining Corporation. 2006
SUSAN M. CUNNINGHAM, 52, Senior Vice President of Exploration and Corporate Reserves of Noble Energy Inc., an international oil and gas exploration and production company, since October 2005. Ms. Cunningham served as Senior Vice President of Exploration of Noble Energy Inc. since 2001. 2005
BARRY J. ELDRIDGE, 62, Former Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Portman Limited, an international iron ore mining company in Australia, from October 2002 through April 2005. Mr. Eldridge is Chairman of Vulcan Resources Ltd. and Wedgetail Mining Limited and is Director of Mundo Minerals Limited, all of which are listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. 2005
SUSAN M. GREEN, 48, Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Congressional Office of Compliance since November 2007. Ms. Green served as Aide to Councilmember Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County, Maryland from December 2002 to August 2005. Ms. Green was originally proposed as a nominee for the Board of Directors by the United Steelworkers, pursuant to the terms of our 2004 labor agreement. 2007
JAMES D. IRELAND III, 58, Managing Director since January 1993 of Capital One Partners, Inc., a private equity investment firm, which through an affiliate, serves as the General Partner of Early Stage Partners I and II L.P., two venture capital investment partnerships. Mr. Ireland is a Director of OurPets Co. 1986
FRANCIS R. McALLISTER, 65, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Stillwater Mining Company, a palladium and platinum producer, since February 2001. Mr. McAllister is a Director of Stillwater Mining Company. 1996
ROGER PHILLIPS , 68, Former President and Chief Executive Officer of IPSCO Inc., a North American steel producing company, from 1982 through 2002. Mr. Phillips is a Director of Canadian Pacific Railway Limited, Imperial Oil Limited and Toronto Dominion Bank. 2002
MANAGEMENT DISCUSSION FROM LATEST 10K
The year 2007 was filled with progress and transition for Cleveland-Cliffs Inc and is expected to be looked upon as a watershed in our transition to an international mining entity.
Specifically, we made our entry into South America through the acquisition of a 30 percent interest in the AmapĂˇ Project; began mineral diversification with an acquisition of a 45 percent economic interest in the Australian Sonoma Coal project; and continued this diversification with the acquisition of PinnOak, a U.S.-based producer of metallurgical coal.
In addition to these strategic accomplishments, our core business, North American Iron Ore, achieved record sales margin. We also achieved record shipments in our Asia-Pacific Iron Ore segment that allowed it to take advantage of unprecedented seaborne pricing for iron ore.
Safety remains the No. 1 priority within Cleveland-Cliffs. Our continuous improvement efforts in this area resulted in a reportable incident rate, as defined by MSHA, of 1.93 in North America, or 38 basis points below last yearâ€™s result of 2.31. Unfortunately, despite continued progress, we did experience a fatality at our United Taconite mine resulting from the mechanical failure of a drill. Our newly acquired North American Coal operations achieved a 6.09 reportable incident rate since the July 31, 2007 acquisition. The MSHA reportable incident rate at underground bituminous coal mines was 7.36 for 2006.
At our Asia-Pacific Iron Ore operations, Koolyanobbingâ€™s LTIFR for the year was 4.14, which is higher than last yearâ€™s result of 3.5. During 2007, six LTIâ€™s were recorded at the Koolyanobbing operation. At Cockatoo Island, three LTIâ€™s were incurred, resulting in a LTIFR of 6.1 for the year, compared with two LTIâ€™s, resulting in a LTIFR of 7.87 in 2006. Asia-Pacific Iron Ore safety statistics include employees and contractors.
We continued to deliver strong financial performance in 2007. Revenues increased to $2.3 billion, with net income of $5.14 per diluted share. This compares with revenues of $1.9 billion and net income of $5.20 per diluted share in 2006.
Global crude steel growth, a significant driver of our business, was up approximately seven percent from 2006 with supply and demand of steel raw materials extremely tight. In North America, the relining of two of our customersâ€™ blast furnaces, as well as softness in steel pricing over the summer, did not prevent us from reaching 22 million sales tons of iron ore in North America. Reasonable industry fundamentals returned in the fall and most producers reacted to lower service center inventories by achieving multiple rounds of price increases. Steelmakers in China continue their strong demand for iron ore as our Asia-Pacific Iron Ore segment produced near capacity with over eight million sales tonnes.
World-wide demand for metallurgical coal increased throughout the year as port constraints in Australia and production problems at large mines in the United States continued to place upward pressure on pricing.
During the year we reorganized our financial reporting into operating segments according to product category and geographic location. The three reportable segments are North American Iron Ore, North American Coal and Asia-Pacific Iron Ore.
North American Iron Ore is comprised of our interests in three iron ore mines in Minnesota, two in Michigan and one in eastern Canada; North American Coal is made up of our July 2007 acquisition of PinnOak Resources and its two metallurgical coal mines in West Virginia and one metallurgical coal mine in Alabama. Asia-Pacific Iron Ore includes our interests in Portman Limited, and its iron ore assets in Western Australia. We report revenues and sales margin separately for each of these three segments.
In addition, we have two segments that do not meet disclosure requirements. Our Asia-Pacific Coal operating segment is comprised of our 45 percent economic interest in the Sonoma Coal Project, and our Latin America Iron Ore operating segment is comprised of our 30 percent interest in the AmapĂˇ Project located in Brazil.
Below is a brief performance discussion for each of the reportable segments:
North American Iron Ore
North American Iron Ore pellet sales volume for 2007 was 22.3 million tons, a nine percent increase from the 20.4 million tons sold last year. The year-over-year increase in sales volume is attributed to increased production, deliveries and our customersâ€™ fulfilling their minimum purchase obligations.
North American Iron Ore revenue per ton was up three percent versus last year. As a result of our strategic procurement, maintenance and other business improvement programs, as well as the implementation of Six Sigma and Lean Sigma at our North American mines, North American Iron Ore cost per ton was flat in comparison to last year. This compares with a PPI increase of 4.1 percent, which is a measurement of industrial company cost inflation.
Principally, as a result this cost containment, North American Iron Ore sales margin per ton increased 11 percent from 2006.
In North America, we are engaged with expanding our leadership position in the industry by focusing on high product quality, technical excellence, superior relationships with our customers and partners and improved operational efficiency through cost saving initiatives. We operate a fully-equipped research and development facility in Ishpeming, Michigan. Our research and development group is staffed with experienced engineers and scientists and is organized to support the geological interpretation, process mineralogy, mine engineering, mineral processing, pyrometallurgy, advanced process control and analytical service disciplines. Our research and development group is also utilized by iron ore pellet customers for laboratory testing and simulation of blast furnace conditions.
North American Coal
Our North American Coal segment is comprised of the PinnOak acquisition completed on July 31, 2007. PinnOak was a privately-owned U.S. producer of high-quality, low-volatile metallurgical coal. The acquisition furthers our growth strategy and expands our diversification of products for the integrated steel industry. North American Coal operations include two complexes comprising three underground mines â€” the Pinnacle and Green Ridge mines in southern West Virginia and the Oak Grove mine near Birmingham, Alabama. Combined, the mines have rated capacity to produce 6.5 million short tons of premium-quality metallurgical coal annually.
During the five months that we have owned the assets, metallurgical coal sales volume was 1.2 million short tons.
In August, production at the Pinnacle mine in West Virginia slowed as a result of sandstone intrusions encountered within the coal panel being mined at the time. This slowdown prompted the decision in late September to move the mineâ€™s longwall plow system to another panel. In mid-October, the plow system was brought back into production.
In addition, we have invested in business improvement initiatives and safety activities designed to improve future production. These investments reduced our 2007 production. The slowdown, and resulting lack of leverage over fixed costs, such as labor, energy and administration, contributed to a loss of sales margin and unusually high per-ton costs of goods sold. However, as we build production volumes at the metallurgical coal mines through 2008, our cost per ton is expected to steadily and significantly decrease.
Asia-Pacific Iron Ore
Asia-Pacific Iron Ore sales volume for 2007 increased 10 percent to 8.1 million tonnes, compared with 7.4 million tonnes in 2006. Increased production capacity has allowed Asia-Pacific to supply higher sales volumes at increased price realizations driven by intense demand from the Asian steel industry, particularly in China.
As a result of this demand, revenues per tonne increased 12 percent from the prior year. Per-tonne costs in Asia-Pacific Iron Ore, which increased 16 percent, continue to be negatively impacted by foreign exchange rates, as the U.S. dollar weakened relative to the Australian dollar, as well as higher maintenance and contract labor expenditures. Our Asia-Pacific Iron Ore management team has put in place a new contractor for mine operations that has cost control incentives. This is expected to result in better cost control in 2008.
In 2007, we continued our strategic transformation to an international mining company through the following acquisitions and partnerships:
On March 5, 2007, we acquired a 30 percent interest in AmapĂˇ, a Brazilian iron ore project, through the acquisition of 100 percent of the shares of Centennial AmapĂˇ for approximately $133 million. The remaining 70 percent of the AmapĂˇ Project is owned by MMX, which is managing the construction and operations of the AmapĂˇ Project while we are supplying supplemental technical support.
In January 2008, Anglo American plc entered into a period of exclusive discussions with the controlling shareholder of MMX to purchase controlling interest in MMXâ€™s 51 percent interest in the Minas-Rio iron ore project and its 70 percent interest in the AmapĂˇ Project. The proposed transaction is subject to a number of terms and conditions, including MMX board and regulatory approvals and the negotiation of definitive transaction documents. In addition, MMX will be required to obtain security holder approval for the completion of the transaction.
Total project funding requirements are estimated to be between $550 and $650 million (our share $165 million to $195 million), including approximately $415 million to $490 million (our share $125 million to $147 million) to be funded with project debt, and approximately $135 million to $160 million (our share $40 million to $48 million) to be funded with equity contributions. As of December 31, 2007, AmapĂˇ had debt outstanding of approximately $419 million, with approximately $83 million representing loans from MMX. These loans will be converted to permanent financing under existing third party credit facilities during 2008. We are committed to funding 30 percent of the equity contributions and have guaranteed 30 percent of the third party project level debt until the project meets certain performance criteria. As of December 31, 2007, approximately $101 million of project debt was guaranteed by Cliffs. Capital contributions through December 31, 2007 have totaled approximately $89 million (our share $26.7 million). AmapĂˇ was in compliance with its debt covenant requirements at December 31, 2007.
The AmapĂˇ Project consists of a significant iron ore deposit, a 192-kilometer railway connecting the mine location to an existing port facility and 71 hectares of real estate on the banks of the Amazon River, reserved for a loading terminal. The AmapĂˇ Project began production of sinter fines in late-December 2007. It is expected that completion of construction of the concentrator and ramp-up of production will occur in 2008. Once fully operational, production is targeted at 6.5 million tonnes of fines products annually.
On April 18, 2007, we executed agreements to participate in the Sonoma Coal Project, a coking and thermal coal project located in Queensland, Australia. As of December 31, 2007, we invested $120.1 million to acquire and develop mining tenements and related infrastructure including the construction of a washplant, which will produce coal to meet the growing global demand. Our total investment in Sonoma is estimated to be $127.7 million. Immediately preceding our investment in Sonoma, QCoal owned exploration permits and applications for mining leases for the real estate that is involved in the Sonoma Project (â€śMining Assetsâ€ť); however, development of the Mining Assets requires significant infrastructure including the construction of a rail loop and related equipment (â€śNon-Mining Assetsâ€ť) and a facility that prepares the extracted coal for sale (the â€śWashplantâ€ť). Pursuant to a combination of interrelated agreements creating a structure whereby Cliffs owns 100 percent of the Washplant, 8.33 percent of the Mining Assets and 45 percent of the Non-Mining Assets of Sonoma, we obtained a 45 percent economic interest in the collective operations of Sonoma.
Mining operations reached a milestone in December 2007, when the first coal was extracted from the mine. The Washplant is currently undergoing commissioning and is expected to be fully operational by the end of the first quarter of 2008. Severe flooding at the mine in mid-February 2008 has caused a delay in previously scheduled shipments. Incorporating the effects of the flooding, we expect total production of 2.0 million tonnes for 2008 and three to four million tonnes annually in 2009 and beyond. Production will include a mix of hard coking coal and thermal coal.
On June 19, 2007, we entered into an alliance whereby Kobe Steel agreed to license its patented ITmk3 Â® iron-making technology to us. The alliance, which has a 10-year term, covers use of the proprietary process in the United States and Canada, Australia and Brazil, and may be expanded to include other geographic regions. Used for the production of high-purity iron nuggets containing more than 96 percent iron, the ITmk3 Â® process provides the means to create high-quality raw materials for EAFs. Steel producers utilizing EAFs currently account for 60 percent of North Americaâ€™s steelmaking capacity. On August 22, 2007, IronUnits LLC and its joint venture partner, Kobe Iron Nugget LLC formed Michigan Iron Nugget LLC. This new entity is the first manifestation of the Cliffs/Kobe alliance and will oversee the feasibility stage of building a commercial iron nugget plant in Marquette County, Michigan.
In November 2007, we acquired a 70 percent controlling interest in Renewafuel. Founded in 2005, Renewafuel produces high-quality, dense fuel cubes made from renewable and consistently available components such as corn stalks, switch grass, grains, soybean and oat hulls, wood, and wood byproducts.
This is a strategic investment that provides an opportunity to utilize a â€śgreenâ€ť solution for further reduction of emissions consistent with our objective to contain costs and enhance efficiencies in a socially responsible manner. In addition to the potential use of Renewafuelâ€™s biofuel cubes in our production process, the cubes will be marketable to other organizations as a potential substitute for Western coal and natural gas.
Renewafuelâ€™s biofuel cubes â€” about the size of a coal briquette â€” generate about the same amount of energy as coal from the Western United States; however, the green fuel emits 90 percent less sulfur dioxide, 35 percent less particulate matter and 30 percent less acid gases than coal. In addition, the cubes are made from feedstocks that are considered biogenic carbon â€” meaning they are already part of the natural carbon balance and will not add to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. Combustion of the cubes is considered â€śgreenhouse neutralâ€ť under most existing carbon dioxide registry and trading programs.
The energy cubes can be used as a carbon neutral stand-alone fuel or a â€śgreenâ€ť supplement blended with existing fuels in industrial furnaces and boilers. The energy cubes generate more than 40 times the energy required to produce and transport them.
We have taken a balanced approach to allocation of our capital resources and free cash flow. We have made strategic investments both domestically and internationally, increased our capital expenditures, strengthened our balance sheet, increased funding of our employee benefit obligations and increased our borrowing capacity.
Recent Accounting Pronouncements
Refer to NOTE 1 â€” BUSINESS SUMMARY AND SIGNIFICANT ACCOUNTING POLICIES â€” of the Consolidated Financial Statements for a description of recent accounting pronouncements, including the respective dates of adoption and effects on results of operations and financial condition.
MANAGEMENT DISCUSSION FOR LATEST QUARTER
Cliffs Natural Resources is an international mining company, the largest producer of iron ore pellets in North America, and a major supplier of metallurgical coal to the global steelmaking industry. We operate six iron ore mines located in Michigan, Minnesota and Eastern Canada, and three coking coal mines in West Virginia and Alabama. We are also the majority owner of Portman, a large iron ore mining company in Australia, serving the Asian iron ore markets with direct-shipping fines and lump ore. We also have a 30 percent interest in AmapĂˇ, a Brazilian iron ore project, and a 45 percent economic interest in Sonoma, an Australian coking and thermal coal project.
We continued to deliver strong financial performance in the first nine months of 2008. Revenues for the first nine months of 2008 increased to nearly $2.7 billion, with net income of $4.34 per diluted share. This compares with revenues of $1.5 billion and net income of $1.69 per diluted share in the first nine months of 2007.
Global crude steel growth, a significant driver of our business was up approximately six percent from the comparable prior year period with supply and demand of steel raw materials extremely tight. World-wide demand for metallurgical coal increased throughout the first nine months of 2008 as port constraints in Australia and production problems at large mines in the United States continued to place upward pressure on pricing.
However, the current volatility and uncertainty in global markets, coupled with the slowdown in the worldâ€™s major economies, has had a significant impact on commodity prices. The mining industry has seen a reduction in high cost operations, and the credit environment is expected to limit the funding and expansion capabilities of many of the junior mining companies. Based on these economic conditions, we continue to evaluate and assess our capital expenditures, in order to ensure we are positioned to face the challenges and uncertainties associated with the current environment.
We organize our business according to product category and geographic location: North American Iron Ore, North American Coal, Asia-Pacific Iron Ore, Asia-Pacific Coal and Latin American Iron Ore. The Asia-Pacific Coal and Latin American Iron Ore businesses, which are in the early stages of production, do not meet the criteria for reportable segments.
All North American business segments are headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Offices in Duluth, Minnesota, have shared services groups supporting the North American business segments. Our Technology Group is located in Ishpeming, Michigan. Our Asia-Pacific headquarters are located in Perth, Australia, and our Latin American headquarters are located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Cliffs International MineraĂ§ĂŁo Brasil, Ltda and Cliffs Asia-Pacific Pty Limited provide technical and administrative support for our assets in Latin America and Australia, respectively, as well as new business development services in these regions. See NOTE 7 â€“ SEGMENT REPORTING for further information.
Growth Strategy and Strategic Transactions
We expect to grow our business and presence as an international mining company by expanding both geographically and through the minerals that we mine and market. Our growth domestically, combined with our investments in Australia and Latin America, as well as acquisitions in minerals outside of iron ore, such as coal, illustrate the execution of this growth strategy. While ever-conscious of the challenges associated with the current economic environment, we continue to identify low-risk opportunities to grow and at the same time position ourselves to deal with the uncertainties that lie ahead. In the first nine months of 2008, we continued our strategic growth and transformation to an international mining company through the following acquisitions and partnerships:
Merger with Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. On July 16, 2008, we announced the entry into a definitive merger agreement with Alpha Natural Resources, Inc. under which we will acquire all outstanding shares of Alpha in a cash and stock transaction. Under the terms of the agreement, for each share of Alpha common stock, Alpha stockholders would receive 0.95 of our common shares and $22.23 in cash. The aggregate consideration comprises approximately $1.7 billion in cash and approximately 70 million new common shares. The combined company would become one of the largest U.S. mining companies and be positioned as a leading diversified mining and natural resources company. The combined companyâ€™s significant position in both iron ore and metallurgical coal will make it a major supplier to the global steel industry, as well as provide a platform for further diversification both geographically and in terms of the mineral and resource products it sells. The transaction is subject to shareholder approval as well as the satisfaction of customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
United Taconite. On July 11, 2008, we signed and closed on the acquisition of the remaining 30 percent interest in United Taconite, with an effective date of July 1, 2008. Upon consummation of the purchase, our ownership interest increased from 70 percent to 100 percent. Total consideration paid for the acquisition was approximately $450.7 million, which is comprised of $104.4 million in cash, 4.3 million of our common shares and 1.2 million tons of iron ore pellets to be provided throughout 2008 and 2009.
Michigan Expansion Projects. In the third quarter of 2008 we announced a capital expansion project at our Empire and Tilden mines in Michiganâ€™s Upper Peninsula. The project, which requires approximately $290.4 million of incremental capital investment, is expected to allow the Empire mine to produce at three million tons annually through 2017 and increase Tilden mine production by more than two million tons annually. This incremental production is expected to result in total equity production of over 25 million tons annually for our North American Iron Ore segment. Empire was previously projected to exhaust reserves in early 2011. As part of the capacity expansion, we will also mine additional ore from our Tilden mine, located adjacent to Empire, and process it utilizing additional processing capacity at Empire. Utilization of this capacity will enable Tilden to increase production to more than 10 million tons annually, of which 8.5 million tons represents our equity share. The work is expected to begin in the last quarter of 2008, with capital expenditures of $69.0 million, $161.5 million and $59.9 million projected in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively.
Portman. On May 21, 2008, Portman announced a tender offer to repurchase up to 16.5 million shares, or 9.39 percent of its common stock. On this date, we owned 80.4 percent of approximately 176 million shares outstanding in Portman and indicated we would not participate in the tender buyback. Under the share tender program, eligible shareholders could offer to sell some or all of their shareholdings at a fixed-price discount of 14 percent to the volume-weighted average price of Portman shares traded on the Australian Stock Exchange during the five trading days after the date of the announcement. The tender period closed on June 24, 2008. Under the buyback, 9.8 million fully paid ordinary shares were tendered at a price of $14.10 (A$14.66) per share. The total consideration paid under the buyback was $137.8 million (A$143.3 million), with our share totaling $110.8 million (A$115.2 million) based on our ownership percentage at the time. As a result of the buyback, our ownership interest in Portman increased from 80.4 percent to 85.2 percent. In order to enable us to move to full ownership of Portman, on September 10, 2008, we announced an off-market takeover offer to acquire, through our wholly-owned subsidiary, Cliffs Asia-Pacific Pty Limited, all of the shares in Portman that we do not already own. The offer is a last and final cash offer at a price of $17.65 (A$21.50) per Portman share. Refer to NOTE 19 â€“ SUBSEQUENT EVENTS of the Unaudited Condensed Consolidated Financial Statements for further information.
Golden West. During the second quarter of 2008, Portman acquired 22 million shares of Golden West, a Western Australia iron ore exploration company. Golden West owns the Wiluna West exploration ore project in Western Australia, containing a resource of 119 million metric tons of ore. The investment provides Portman a strategic interest in Golden West and Wiluna West. During the third quarter of 2008 we acquired approximately 2 million additional shares in Golden West, bringing our total number of shares held in Golden West to approximately 24 million shares. Our ownership in Golden West represents approximately 18.5 percent of its outstanding shares at September 30, 2008. Acquisition of the shares represents an investment of approximately $27 million.
RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
North American Iron Ore
The increase in sales revenue for the third quarter of 2008 was primarily due to higher sales prices combined with a 31 percent increase in sales tons. Revenue per ton increased approximately 40 percent in the quarter primarily as a result of higher steel prices, new and existing long-term supply agreements with certain customers being negotiated at world pellet prices, in addition to other contractual price adjustment factors. Included in third quarter 2008 revenues was $85.1 million related to supplemental steel payments, compared with $26.1 million for the same period last year. Higher sales volume in the third quarter of 2008 is primarily due to increased demand and commitments under our long-term pellet sales agreements, increased spot sales, and customer plant outages during the prior year.
The increase in cost of goods sold and operating expense in the third quarter of 2008 was primarily due to higher costs of production, including higher rates for natural gas, diesel fuel and supplies. Cost of goods sold and operating expenses in the current period also reflect the impact of the United Taconite step acquisition as well as the effects of a new labor agreement. In addition, higher plant spending was incurred during the quarter related to the Michigan expansion project.
The increase in sales revenue for the first nine months of 2008 was primarily due to higher sales prices combined with increases in sales volume. Revenue per ton increased approximately 42 percent for the year to date primarily as a result of higher steel prices, renegotiated and new long-term supply agreements with certain customers, which were negotiated at world pellet prices, and other contractual price adjustment factors. For the first nine months of 2008, revenue included $195.4 million related to the supplemental steel payments compared with $55.7 million for the first nine months of 2007. Higher sales volume in the third quarter of 2008 is primarily due to increased demand and commitments under our long-term pellet sales agreements, increased spot sales, and customer plant outages during the prior year.
The increase in cost of goods sold and operating expense in the first nine months of 2008 was primarily due to higher costs of production, higher royalty fees related to the increases in pellet pricing, and increased maintenance costs associated with the Michigan expansion project and major furnace repairs at Empire and United Taconite during the first quarter. Fuel and energy costs increased $31.8 million compared to the same period in 2007. In addition, the impact of the United Taconite step acquisition also contributed to the year to date increase.
Thank you, Michelle. Before we get started today let me remind you that certain comments made will include predictive statements that are intended to be made as forward-looking within the Safe Harbor protections of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although the company believes that its forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. Important factors that could cause results to differ materially are set forth in reports on Form 10-K and 10-Q and news releases filed with the SEC, which are available on our Web site.
Today's conference call is also available and being broadcast on our Web site at cliffsnaturalresources.com. At the conclusion of the call it will be archived and available for replay for approximately 30-days.
Joining me today are Cliffs's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Joseph Carrabba and Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Laurie Brlas.
At this time I will turn the call over to Joe for his prepared comments.
Thanks, Steve. We are pleased to join you today to report our strong third quarter and nine months performance, and to speak with you for the first time under our new brand Cliffs Natural Resources.
Today, Cliffs is a global mining and natural resource company with the primary focus on steel making raw materials. The company has operations in North America, South America and Australia, and markets products in North America, Asia and Europe. In rebranding the organization we chose to stay true to our roots. While recognized in our increasing mineral diversity expanded reach and genuine commitment to the environment. We expect the new brand to reinforce understanding of our business model envision in the industry. It also positions us well with junior miners looking for a strong international partner to help bring deposits to market as well as with the international finance centers as Cliffs looks to attract more diverse investor base.
Before Laurie presents an overview of our financial results I would like to take a moment to update you on our corporate development and operational achievements during the quarter. The most significant of which is our pending definitive merger agreement with our financial resources. If shareholders vote to approve the merger Cliffs Natural Resources will be positioned as a major global player and the leading independent supplier of critical raw materials to the North American and international steel industries. The industrial logic for this combination is rooted in the critical mass in met coal that would be achieved and the extended reach the combined company would have into world steel making markets. It also stands to reason that the combined company would participate and benefit from further consolidation in the industry.
This consolidation scenario and the benefits that accrue to shareholders as one that has already played out in other global production basis as well as in other industries. We have seen it and see more iron ore, we have seen it in global steel, and we believe it will eventually be seen in Appalachia. In fact, the current global disruptions, the oversold state of commodities today could prove to be the needed buying opportunity for those properly positioned in the industry. With that as a backdrop we have set the record date of shareholder meeting dates for the merger and look forward to continuing to make our case to all of you.
In addition to the Alpha deal during the third quarter Cliffs launched a tender offer for Portman Limited shares not already owned. Our offer of Australian 21.50 per share has resulted in a current ownership position of over 96.3% and places us over the threshold to achieve compulsory status for the remaining ownership. We expect to complete the mop-up by year-end.
In aggregate and at the current exchange rate we will pay approximately $370 million for the minority interest. This equates to about $26 a ton for high quality iron ore reserves. In the third quarter we also reached a deal to buy out of our minority partner at the United Taconoite mine in Minnesota. Consideration for this 30% interest includes 4.3 million shares of approximately $100 million in cash and 1.2 million tons of iron ore pellets. Based on current market prices this would total an estimated $380 million of consideration for 45 million tons of iron ore reserves and mine capital or about $8.50 a ton of finished pallets. Both of these deals illustrate Cliffs aggressive pursued organic growth opportunities that carry no integration or execution risk.
In our North American iron ore segment, we also announced the planned expansion project at our Empire and Tilden mines in Michigan. The project which will require approximately $290 million of incremental capital investment while allowing Empire to produce a 3 million tons annually through 2017 and increased Tilden mine production capacity at more than 2 million tons annually from its previous capacity.
As part of the expansion we plan to mine additional ore from Tilden, which is located adjacent to Empire and process it utilizing extra processing capacity at Empire. The utilization of this capacity will enable Tilden to increase production to more than 10 million tons annually. Bottom-line is this project will provide approximately 38 million incremental equity tons over the next nine years for an investment of approximately $6.50 a ton.
I would also like to acknowledge Northshore Minings-Babbitt Mine in Silver Bay, Minnesota for being recognized for its outstanding safety performance in 2007 and winning the industry coveted Sentinels of Safety Award. Congratulations should go to the entire Northshore team.
Before I continue with the discussion of our outlook and turning the call to Laurie for a financial review of the quarter, I would be remiss if I didn't recognize the highly for carriers economic environment we are currently operating in. I want to assure our investors that this management team is fully conscious of its challenges and will continue to take prudent steps to position Cliffs to weather any difficult times ahead.
As you saw in our release on Tuesday, we are idling [ph] three furnaces in our North American iron ore segment. This production curtailment is designed to bring our production in line with our customers announced production cuts. I have also challenged our operators and managers on upcoming capital projects and other planned expenditures and please be ensured we will continue to do so.
With that I will turn the call over to Laurie.
Thanks, Joe, and good morning, everyone. In order to open the floor for questions in a timely manner I limit my comments today for the more critical financial metrics and not repeat all the detail found in the press release.
During the quarter we eclipsed the previous record revenue set last year with top line growth of 92% reported revenues for the third quarter of $1.2 billion considerably exceeded last year's $620 million.
Net income reached a $175 million, an increase of $118 million or 207% from the $57 million reported in the third quarter last year. Cliffs achieved diluted earnings per share of a $1.61, up 198% compared with the split-adjusted $0.54 reported last year.
As the U.S. dollar have strengthened significantly and suddenly against the Australian dollar, it has affected the currency hedging in our Asia-Pacific business. We had negative mark-to-market adjustment of approximately $94 million pretax in the current quarter. Excluding that adjustment Cliffs diluted earnings per share would have been $2.13 or 294% (inaudible).
Turning to the business segment results, for the quarter, North American iron ore generated record sales margin of $259.3 million, up more than 154% from the year ago period. This increase reflects a 42% jump in average realized pricing for last furnace pellets with revenue per ton reaching $92.73 compared with $65.15 last year.
Our North American iron ore segment benefited from higher benchmark pricing and higher steel pricing as well as renegotiated a new supply agreement with some of our customers.
Due to increasing royalty payment, fluctuating natural gas and diesel fuel costs, as well as deferred maintenance activities that will now be completed at Empire due to the expansion that Joe referenced, we are seeing significant year-over-year pressures on our costs.
Per ton cost in North American iron ore were $60.47 compared with $48.34 last year. In North American coal, average realized per ton price reached $100.34, an increase of 41% compared with the $70.92 realized in the two months of the previous year's third quarter that we own the business.
As we continue to enhance long-term mine planning and development activities, higher end trained miners and face rising supply service and royalty expenses, our North American coal segment continues to report much higher cost of goods sold compared with others in our industry.
Costs per ton in the third quarter was $115.22. However, much of this year's effort and activities are designed to optimize production and result in higher production and fixed cost leverage in two, three years.
In Asia-Pacific, iron ore average price realization for lump and fines rose 106% to $111.55 per tons of the quarter primarily reflecting the international benchmark settlement for Australian producers.
As we increase our ownership position in Portman, there will be a fair value adjustments to the fixed assets and mineral reserves which will increase our depreciation, depletion and amortization. In addition, accounting requires that we step up the inventory to fair value which temporarily drive the cost of goods sold until that inventory turn.
In the third quarter, cost of goods sold of $63.76 per ton was impacted by approximately $4 per ton resulting from the inventory fair value adjustment and $2, an additional depreciation, depletion and amortization related to the incremental 5% we acquired as part of Portman Limited share tender program.
Turning to the balance sheet, I want to begin by saying that we have a strong focus on cash generation and ensuring a healthy balance sheet. Even during the last year's rising prices we made the relatively conservative balance sheet and that has positioned us well for the current uncertain economic environment.
At September 30, we had $388 million in cash and cash equivalents compared with $157 million at December 31st. The company had $525 million of borrowings outstanding including our recently closed $325 million private placement and $200 million of borrowing under our $800 million credit facility. This compares with $440 million in borrowing outstanding at the beginning of the year. What that means is despite the project we have undertaken this year we have driven our net debt down from $283 million to just $137 million.
Outside of the term loan we currently have no borrowing under our revolving credit facility. Our debt-to-EBITDA ratio is currently just 0.5 times and debt-to-total capital stands at 24% with net debt-to-total capital at only 6%. With cash on hand and unused capacity on our revolving credit facility at quarter-end, we had nearly $1 million in available liquidity.
As evidence of our management focus the rating agencies gave us an investment grade rating and despite the current credit environment we closed on an unsecured loan agreement led by JP Morgan for approximately $1.5 billion earmarked for financing our agreement with Alpha. Terms are competitive and the agreement will become effective upon closing of the transaction.
In the third quarter, Cliffs generated cash provided by operations of $499 million, bringing us to a nine-month total of $582 million. This is an increase of over 600% from the nine month period in 2007. For the full year we expect approximately $700 million to $750 million in cash from operations.
Capital expenditures for the nine months were approximately $148 million and we expect approximately $240 million in total for the full year. As such we will generate about $500 million in free cash flow in 2008 compared with $89 million in 2007.
Total operating expenses for 2008 excluding any currency hedge adjustments are projected to be about $140 million. We expect an effective tax rate of around 26% and depreciation, amortization of about $180 million. In short, we will have an extremely strong balance sheet, a tremendous ability to generate cash and diversified operations and assets.
With that I will turn the call back over to Joe.
Thanks, Laurie. Before we take your questions I will provide our expectations for 2008. However, it is important to note that given current economic uncertainty tightening of credit facilities and our customers affected reductions in steel production it reduces the degree of certainty with which we can forecast.
In 2008, based on supply agreement commitments we still expect sales of 25 million tons for our North American iron ore business with revenue per ton of $91 and a cost per ton of $57. In Asia-Pacific iron ore, 2008 revenue per ton is expected to be approximately $98 with cost per ton of $58. Sales and production volumes are both projected at approximately 8 million tons.
In North America coal we are developing short and long-term strategic plans making capital improvements and enhancing efficiencies. In 2008, we expect revenue to average $93 per ton and cost per ton of $97. Production is expected to reach 3.6 million tons.
Before moving on I want to take a few moments to talk to you about why we think from a production standpoint, 2009 will be a very different year in our North American coal business. Admittedly, the job of getting these coal mines up to Cliffs standard has been a tough one, and one we may have underestimated in hindsight. However, we spent a lot of time this year putting the right management team in place, sorting out a solid mine plan for next year, and procuring delivery of the right capital equipment to optimize production for these properties.
On the commercial side we also expect the strong pricing of met coal to significantly enhance our sales margins in this business. We are currently in the negotiating season and close to reach in a number of deals, but currently, remain uncommitted for the vast majority of our 4.6 million tons of expected production.
Again, though, continued volatility at the global financial markets has objected a high degree of uncertainty, visibility into the international market is now less clear because of recently announced production cuts by steel producers, because of this, it's nearly impossible to provide any reliable 2009 guidance.
Notwithstanding R&D â€“ entire industry's lack of clarity in the current year, Cliffs continues to deliver strong performance and is successfully positioning the company. We are prepared to weather any difficult times lie ahead and we will continue to explore avenues â€“ all avenues of creating value both in the short and long-term. We believe our approach will continue to serve us well going forward.