Ring of Fire exemption vital for jobs – by Brian MacLeod (Sudbury Star – December 1, 2011)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Ontario has an unenviable record of shipping natural resources out of the country, where they’re used for finished products. The issue has again appeared on the Ontario legislature’s radar screen and it could be trouble for the Liberals, since job creation is at the centre of that screen at the moment.

Ohio-based Cliffs Natural Resources plans to develop the massive Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario.

Loaded with chromite–which is used to make stainless steel–nickel, copper and gold, the 5,120-square-kilometre deposit sits in an isolated landscape about a two-hour flight northeast of Thunder Bay. Cliffs wants to begin production at its Black Thor mine by 2015–if it gets past legal objections to the environmental assessment process from area First Nations.

Cliffs plans to build a processing facility to produce concentrate near the mine, as well as a ferrochrome smelter–possibly in Sudbury –if it can get a favourable deal on electricity rates, which are much lower in Manitoba and Quebec. Ontario’s Mining Act says ore “shall be treated and refined in Canada so as to yield refined metal or refined product suitable for direct use … without further treatment.”

But the act also gives the province the power to determine “refined” however it wants, and to provide exemptions. The Ring of Fire will be a key driver for Ontario’s economic recovery.

Billions of dollars will be spent on infrastructure and mine development. If Cliffs can’t get a good deal on electricity, it can build its smelter outside Ontario.

Cliffs plans to produce 600,000 tonnes of ferrochrome annually at the smelter, but it also plans to ship about one million tonnes of concentrate–which has only gone through the first stage of processing–outside the country, mainly to China.

The concentrate does not fit the requirements of the Mining Act, since it must be further refined, so exporting it requires an exemption.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3389751