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Cliffs to idle 2 sites, delay expansion elsewhere

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. said Monday that it will delay expansion of one of its mines and idle production at two of its iron ore operations due to weak prices.

The Cleveland-based company said it is delaying expansion at its Bloom Lake Mine Phase II in Quebec and will idle some operations at Northshore Mining in Minnesota and Empire Mine in Michigan.

Depending on market conditions, Cliffs now expects to complete the Bloom Lake Phase II construction in early 2014.

The moves will affect 625 employees. Overall, Cliffs Natural has about 7,400 employees, according to FactSet.

The delay will lower the company's Eastern Canadian iron ore sales volumes to 9 million to 10 million tons for 2013 from its prior expectation of 13 million to 14 million tons. The company said it still expects its U.S. iron ore sales volume for the year will remain unchanged at 19 million to 20 million tons.

Cliffs has been struggling with the impact of lower iron ore prices, which have fallen due to weak demand and plentiful supply. The company reported last month that third-quarter net income dropped nearly 86 percent as it faced weak iron ore prices and higher labor and mining costs.

Shares fell 83 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $34.50 in midday trading. The stock is down about 45 percent in the year to date.