(EnergyAsia, July 12 2012, Thursday) — NYSE-listed Cliffs Natural Resources Inc said its Cliffs Australia Coal Pty subsidiary has agreed to sell its 45% stake in the Sonoma joint venture coal mine in Australia’s Queensland state for A$141 million. (US$1=A$0.98).

Australian buyer QCoal Sonoma Pty will also acquire an affiliated coal wash plant by the fourth quarter.

Cliffs said the Sonoma joint venture’s other partners JS Sonoma Pty, CSC Sonoma Pty and Watami (Qld) Pty, also have the right to acquire their pro rata share of its interest within 60 days of the notice to accept the offer.

If they do not exercise their right, QCoal will acquire those pro rata interests.

Joseph Carrabba, Cliffs chairman, president and CEO, said the company continues to make capital allocation decisions … focused on driving top-quartile total shareholder return for our shareholders.”

“This transaction reinforces our strategy to direct management and capital resources towards long-lived expandable assets where Cliffs has operational control.”

Cliffs purchased its 45% stake in Sonoma, whose production mix is 2/3 thermal coal and 1/3 metallurgical coal, in 2007. Last year, Sonoma sold 3.1 million tones of its 3.5-million ton production.