Mining observer questions [Ring of Fire] Cliffs’ mine start-up date – by Thunder Bay CBC Radio (January 8, 2013)

Ring of Fire project will likely be delayed for a variety of reasons, says industry watcher

A mining observer and blogger predicts chromite production in the Ring of Fire may not begin until as late as 2020.

Stan Sudol said he believes the fragile global economy — along with challenges related to infrastructure and First Nations communities — will slow development of the mineral zone. But there’s also an upside to a longer wait, he said.

“It gives us a little bit more time to decide exactly what type of transportation infrastructure would be the best for the Ring of Fire and how both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities could best take advantage of this enormous transformational opportunity,” Sudol said.

Cliffs Natural Resources, the biggest company operating in the Ring of Fire, currently has a target start date of 2016. “Cliffs initially said they’re looking at 2016, but then there were some reports of 2017,” Sudol said. “I think a safer bet would be 2019 [or] 2020.”

Chance of takeover

In an e-mail to CBC News, a spokesperson for Cliffs called Sudol’s prediction about the mine’s start-up timeline and the company’s potential as a takeover target “pure speculation” on his part.

Director of global communications Pat Persico said it is Cliffs’ standard practice to not make statements responding to speculation, opinions or market rumours.

Nevertheless, that’s not stopping the mining observer from pondering the future of the mining project.

Sudol said plans to make Sudbury the location for a smelter connected to the Ring of Fire aren’t written in stone, as there’s still a chance a bigger company could take over Cliffs Natural Resources. He said if that were to happen, all plans would be re-assessed.

“Sudbury shouldn’t count its chromite eggs just yet,” Sudol said.

“If, for whatever reason, there’s changes in the way they want to develop the deposits in the Ring of Fire or some other issues, that smelter may end up going to Greenstone. Or it might go to Thunder Bay.”

A fragile economy has lowered the price of Cliffs’ stocks, making the company a good takeover target, he said.

For a radio interview, please go to the Thunder Bay CBC Radio website: