Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. has announced that the company TMs Board of Directors has approved a plan to seek a potential sale and to idle operations at its renewaFUEL biomass production facility in Sawyer.
Cliffs indicated that the financial impact of the decision is estimated to be an approximately $30 million primarily non-cash, pretax charge in the third quarter of 2011.
The facility was constructed to produce high-energy, low-emission biofuel cubes from sustainably collected wood and agricultural feed stocks. Since initial production, the plant has not performed to design capacity, nor at a production level that justifies continued operation.
The renewaFUEL plant currently employs approximately 30 full-time individuals. Cliffs will make every effort to reassign these employees where possible to other positions within the company.
Cliffs acquired renewaFUEL in 2007 and previously operated a pilot plant in Battle Creek, Mich. Construction was completed on the Sawyer facility in early 2011 and the plant went through its commissioning phase during the first half of 2011. The plant delivered its first commercial supply of biofuel cubes to the Marquette Board of Light and Power in mid-July.
In making the announcement, the company recognizes the strong working relationship renewaFUEL has had with the Marquette Board of Light and Power, federal, state and county officials and others who have been supportive in getting the renewaFUEL facility sited and constructed. It is important to note that no public funds were used in construction or operation of the renewaFUEL facility.