Cliffs Natural Resources discussed the company's flagging financial results for last year but sounded an upbeat note about this year at a meeting in Virginia Wednesday morning.
Cliffs operates three taconite facilities on the Iron Range and is the country's largest producer of iron ore pellets. The company's revenues declined 11 percent last year.
Cliffs laid off about 80 workers at its Northshore mine near Babbitt and at the company's taconite plant in Silver Bay. But Cliffs executive Kelly Tompkins said the company is optimistic about 2013.
"Autos and energy right now are very positive factors for our domestic iron ore business," Cliff said. "We're bullish about what the U.S. iron ore market looks like going into 2013, very stable overall."
Tompkins also expects growing demand from China, where Cliffs' U.S. operations currently export about 10 percent of their iron ore pellets.