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Energy and Resources Quebec talking to Cliffs Natural about reopening iron ore mine

The Bloom Lake iron ore mine in Quebec is shown on Nov. 20, 2014.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Quebec is talking to U.S. miner Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. about restarting the Bloom Lake iron ore mine in the northeast of the province.

It's too early to provide more details on the discussions or speculate on potential outcomes, Quebec Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pierre Arcand said in an interview Wednesday.

Investissement Quebec, an investment arm of the provincial government, is talking to the Cleveland-based company "about the next step," he said. "We'll look for the best way to relaunch this facility."

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Cliffs announced Jan. 2 it had ended production at Bloom Lake, less than two months after the company said it was considering the closing of the project. Cliffs acquired the mine in 2011 via its $4.2-billion takeover of Consolidated Thompson Iron Mines Ltd.

Cliffs is exiting higher-cost operations to focus on its domestic business after iron ore prices slumped to a five-year low amid weakening demand for the steel making ingredient in China, the biggest consumer.

A Cliffs spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said in June that his government would revive the so-called Plan Nord, a strategy to tap mining and energy resources north of the 49th parallel that the previous administration halted in 2012.

Former Liberal premier Jean Charest unveiled the plan in 2011, promising $80-billion of government and company investment by 2036 in an area twice the size of France. Arcand said last year that the program's scope would likely be much smaller.

Investissement Quebec had investments of about $2.7-billion as of March 31, according to its 2013-14 annual report. Its holdings include loans and a stake in Quebec miner Stornoway Diamond Corp.

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