Cliffs wants outside investment in Ring of Fire haul road – by Northern Ontario Business staff (January 20, 2012)

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Cliffs Natural Resources expects public and private investment in a transportation corridor to process and export Ring of Fire chromite.

After additional pre-feasibility of its chromite projects in the James Bay lowlands, the Ohio-based international miner said it intends to produce 1 million annual tons of chromite ore concentration for export, on top of its original 600,000 tons of ferrochrome.

Cliffs owns three properties in the Ring of Fire, including its flagship Black Thor project, which it expects to have in production by 2015. The company released its 2012 capital expenditure plan, Jan. 19.

Preliminary project estimates peg the mine development at US $150 million, a nearby concentrating plant at $800 million, with a ferrochrome processing facility of a whopping $1.8 billion.

Three Northern Ontario communities – Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Greenstone – are in the running for the much-prized ferrochrome processor.

Cliffs wants the provincial and federal government to come to the table with money for the transportation infrastructure.

A 350-kilometre, all-weather service road between the mine site and a rail connection at Nakina in northwestern Ontario will cost $600 million, a figure Cliffs said it did not factor into its initial cost estimates.

Cliffs said it only plans to make a “partial” investment into the haul road, “with the balance to be contributed by other industry participants and government entities.”

Although the deposits are considered “world class,” Cliffs said more study must be done before the company starts spending on construction, most of which would take place in 2014 and 2015.

The company said its project prefeasibility study is expected to be finished sometime during the middle of this year.

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