Sudbury expected to win Cliffs lottery – by Mike Whitehouse (Sudbury Star – April 11, 2012)

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

The consensus among Greater Sudbury’s northern rivals is the nickel city has — as expected — won the marathon to host Cliffs Natural Resources’ prized ferrochrome smelter.

Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs made clear last week that Cliffs officials told him the company, long leaning toward the northeast, is now entirely focused on Sudbury.

Cleveland-based Cliffs is the principal in the development of the Ring of Fire deposit in the James Bay Lowlands and plans to spend close to $3 billion to get its chromite project into production. About $1.8 billion of that is to build a ferrochrome processing plant.

In addition to Sudbury and Thunder Bay, Timmins and Greenstone, the town closest to the minesite, were considered possible locations for the plant.

In 2010, Cliffs announced its base-case smelter location was Moose Mountain Mine north of Capreol because of proximity to rail and hydro corridors and Sudbury’s large, experienced workforce.

The CBC reports Cliffs purchased the property last year.

Hobbs predicts Sudbury will be made the official location this spring.

Thunder Bay lobbied Cliffs hard for the smelter last fall, trumpeting its shipping advantages. However, Hobbs told last week he expects Cliffs to give the nod to Sudbury in a matter of weeks.

“I talked to Ron Nelson from NOMA and we both got the impression that Sudbury was going to be it,” Hobbs said.

“But you know, we still have to wait for these things, you still have to put your best case forward.”

Andrew Mitchell, a director of development for Cliffs Chromite Ontario Inc., told Thunder Bay Television the final decision will come down to electricity.

“The key driver in the ferrochrome is power costs,” Mitchell said. “That is one of the most significant operating cost components and it’s also one of the things that takes the most in-depth negotiation with the suppliers.”

In Timmins, consensus is the eminent sale of the Ontario Northland Railway will sink that city’s chances of attracting Cliffs’ smelter.

Greenstone, meanwhile, which has native leaders in the northwest of the province onside, can meet none of Cliffs’ electricity, transportation or workforce needs.

Cliffs’ 2012 capital plan called for $150 million to develop the Black Thor mine site, one of three sites it controls in the Ring of Fire, and $800 million to construct a near-mine concentrating plant.

Not included in those estimates is $600 million to build an all-weather road it says will benefit remote northern communities and other Ring of Fire mining projects.

Cliffs says it would look to private and “government entities” to share the cost of the road.