Cliffs' Bloom Lake hit with record environmental fine

Cliffs Natural Resources' record with its Canadian operations acquired in 2011 as part of the US company's $5 billion acquisition of Consolidated Thompson Iron Mines, took another beating on Wednesday.

Quebec's Bloom Lake General Partner has plead guilty to 45 charges under Canada's fisheries act and will pay a $7.5 million fine for releasing pollutants into fish-bearing waters.

The fine was imposed following the Triangle Tailings Pond dam breach in May 2011 and other environmental accidents over a period of 18 months, Environment Canada said Wednesday reports CBC News:

In one instance, more than 14,500 litres of ferric sulfate was dumped into water frequented by fish. "On a number of occasions," Environment Canada said in a release Wednesday, "the company did not inform the Department of releases, contrary to regulatory requirements and omitted to take samples and conduct analyses as required under the regulations."

Cliffs said in November it is “pursuing exit options” for its Eastern Canadian iron ore operations, which is likely to result in the closure of the Bloom Lake mine after no buyers could be found.

The mine closure, estimated to cost $650 million to $700 million over the next five years, would be a major setback to Quebec’s economy and its government’s Plan Nord project, aimed to fast-track the extraction of natural resources in the northern part of the province.

As of the end of 2013, the mine employed 579 people, 40 of which were local.

In October the company notified the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador it was closing Wabush Mines, which had been idle since February.

Cleveland-based Cliffs lost a proxy battle with hedge fund Casablanca Capital earlier this year and will narrow its focus to five iron ore mines in Michigan and Minnesota.

Shares (NYSE:CLF) in Cliffs have plunged 77% this year to below the $1 billion mark. That's down from a $15 billion market value hit in 2011 at the height of the iron ore boom.

Prices for the steelmaking raw material has plummeted by more than 50% this year.