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Cliffs Natural Resources CSR Report: Sets Goal to Cut Emissions 17% in the U.S.

As part of the company’s new Greenhouse Gas Strategic Plan, Cliffs Natural Resources has committed to a 17 percent reduction of U.S. direct emissions levels from its 2008 baseline by 2020, which will approximately equal to a 14.7 percent reduction of global direct emissions, according to the company’s 2009 Corporate Sustainability Report (PDF).

Each site’s energy manager is tasked with developing site-specific plans for optimization of GHG emissions and energy efficiency, renewable fuel use, and offset opportunity development by the end of 2011.

In 2009, Cliffs defined specific targets in key areas of its environmental performance. In addition to its GHG reduction commitment, the global mining and natural resources company also set a goal to cut combined SO2 and NOx emission levels 10 percent by 2015 from 2008 levels, and to have all of its facilities, which it has operational control, ISO 14001 certified for their environmental management systems (EMS) by the end of 2011. Fifty percent of its facilities already have certification.

Other new targets include identifying and using native species as part of its reclamation program, developing an environmental education outreach program, developing consistent and accurate spill data, and evaluating the feasibility of establishing and implementing a company-wide goal and timeline for the elimination of ozone depleting substances. The company also plans to eliminate and replace parts washers that are solvent-based or produce hazardous waste by the end of 2012, implement recycling programs at each facility, and assess opportunities for water efficiency improvements.

Cliffs also developed a supplier policy to evaluate supplier practices related to environment, financial sustainability, human rights, diversity, community-related and ethics and business conduct.

Although Cliffs’ total emissions have increased over time, the company’s total GHG emissions were down 31.9 percent in 2009, which Cliffs attributes to production decreases associated with the worldwide economic slowdown. As a result, per-unit (metric tons of production) emissions were higher than in some prior years, according to the report.

In 2009, Cliffs total direct energy consumption, from coal, natural gas, oil, coke and propane, also decreased, down 30 percent from 2008 levels, which also is due in part to the worldwide economic slowdown, together with its energy-efficiency measures.

Because shutting down, starting up and operating at lower capacities is less efficient, the company’s direct energy consumption per unit of production was 5.15 percent higher in 2009 than in the previous year, says Cliffs. In addition, several energy-efficiency projects were delayed until 2010 due to the recession.

However, several efficiency projects at its North American operations in 2009 resulted in energy savings of 245,400 GJ and cost savings of $2.7 million. The majority of the projects took place at its Tilden Mine facility in Michigan.

Some of those energy-saving projects included the installation of variable speed fans in various production equipment, the replacement of standard bulbs with energy-efficiency bulbs as well as improvements in its boiler blow-down heat recovery system and vacuum pumps used for the filtering of concentrate.

The company also is addressing the release of coal mine methane gas in two ways, according to the report. At its Oak Grove facility, 90 percent of high concentration methane captured gas is recovered and sold into the natural gas pipeline, which is said to substantially reduce the amount of methane released.

At the Pinnacle Mine, for the low-grade gob gas that cannot be recovered and sold, Cliffs is implementing a method of destroying the gas to reduce the effect of the gas on climate change by a factor of 20 or more.

Saving water is another area where Cliffs is making improvements. In 2009, the Empire and Tilden mining operations in Michigan implemented measures, including more efficient water handling and pumping systems, to reduce fresh water consumption, resulting in a savings of approximately 160 million gallons of water and more than 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

Cliffs recycles approximately 98 percent of the water needed for its operations.

The company also is working to optimize the use of its materials and minimize waste.

As an example, the company implemented a conveyor belt recycling program at its North American operations, which led to the sale of 1,043 tons of used scrap belt. The company also sold 9,444 tons of scrap metal, resulting in more than $1.5 million in additional income for the company.

The company also sold decommissioned capital equipment that resulted in more than $1.7 million in sales.

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