Road route [into Ring of Fire] may change picture – by Bryan Meadows (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – May 14, 2012)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

Provincial support of a north-south corridor for Ring of Fire mining resources has Noront Resources officials shaking their heads. “Right now we’re trying to get some clarity as to what that means,” company spokesman Paul Semple said Saturday.

Cliffs Natural Resources announced Wednesday that it would build a ferrochrome smelter near Sudbury, and that ore would be trucked south from the mine site along a $600-million all-weather road to Nakina. The provincial government said discussions would begin soon on the proposed road to run south from the Ring of Fire.

Noront’s preferred route for transporting base metals and other minerals from its Eagle’s Nest mining project is an east-west link with Pickle Lake and CN Railway in Savant Lake. It had the support of at least four First Nations in the north.

“We don’t know yet if that will affect our plans, or what. We’re trying to get a clearer picture of what it means,” Semple said.

He noted that Noront and Cliffs already collaborate on some aspects of their mining projects in the James Bay Lowlands.
“We talk about various things . . . around the road and access issue, we’re still trying to dissect that,” he said.

In March, four Matawa First Nations announced that they are examining building and operating their own Ring of Fire transportation corridor between Pickle Lake and Webequie Junction.

Eabametoong, Neskantaga, Nibinamik and Webequie First Nations signed an agreement to work together to build an east-west corridor for the Ring of Fire.

“By taking control of our traditional homeland, we can ensure that our communities really benefit in meaningful and long-term ways from the potential development in the Ring of Fire,” Eabametoong Chief Harry Papah said.

The four First Nations have said that the ultimate goal is to “establish a joint venture that will operate an infrastructure, transportation and service corridor for potential mining companies in the Ring of Fire.”

Papah could not be reached for further comment.

Semple said Eagle Lake’s feasibility study will be finished in about a month.

“We’re in the permitting stages, and working on the environmental assessments,” he said.

Noront is targeting Jan. 1, 2016 for its mine to begin production.

Noront’s project description proposes a planned one-million-tonne-per-year underground mine and mill complex processing high-grade nickel, copper, platinum and palladium ore.

Proposed surface disturbance at the mine site is limited to an airstrip, accommodations, recreation and office complex, an explosive storage site, an underground portal and site roads connecting the facilities.

The mill complex will be established in underground excavations, taking advantage of the host rocks and minimizing surface disturbance at the site. Mill tailings will be stored underground.