Plan sparks Ring of Fire ire – by Ryan Lux (Timmins Daily Press – December 5, 2011)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

Process it here or leave it in the ground, union demands

Cliffs Natural Resources’ pledge to seek an exemption from the Ontario Mining Act to ship chromite concentrate from Ontario’s Ring of Fire to Asia for processing has raised the ire of unions and municipalities representing the North.

The company claims the raw chromite ore will undergo value-added processing in Ontario where it will be transformed into chromite concentrate. However, critics say the ore should either be refined in Ontario or left in the ground.

William Brehl, the head of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees, said the government risks squandering the economic potential of the Northern Ontario mineral bonanza.

“Premier Dalton McGuinty’s government has called the Ring of Fire the most promising mining opportunity in Canada in a century,” said Brehl.

“We urge his minority government to stand tall, protect Ontario jobs and help Northern Ontario’s economy by denying the exemption. If you mine it here, then refine it here or go away and leave it in the ground.”

Twice as large as Prince Edward Island, the Ring of Fire is said to hold one of the world’s largest and richest deposits of chromite, the key ingredient in making stainless steel. It is also said to possess nickel, copper, platinum, gold, zinc and magnesium.

Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci promised to maximize the number of jobs from the operations, but gave no indication whether it is OK to ship a million tonnes of concentrate out of the country.

Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren said if Cliffs gets the green light to ship up to one million tonnes of concentrate overseas, it would be a travesty for Northern Ontario’s economy.

Laughren said he appreciates some of the challenges of refining the chromite in the province, but said he is going to urge Queen’s Park to make some concessions to encourage Cliffs to refine in Northern Ontario.

“There’s a huge opportunity for us in Northern Ontario to work with the proponents,” said Laughren.

“We should be looking at the whole gamut of our options.”

He argued the province needs to create a discounted industrial hydro rate before companies would even consider smelting in Ontario.

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