There’s so much money to be made from the Ring of Fire and so many dollars have been invested already that it’s unlikely Cliffs Natural Resources will abandon its plan to mine and process chromite in Northern Ontario, said Dave Kilgour.
The Ward 7 city councillor represents Capreol, which was chosen by the Ohio miner last year as the place it wants to build a $1.8-billion facility to process ore from its Ring of Fire mine.
The Cliffs project has been plagued with setbacks in recent months. The company temporarily suspended the environmental assessment process in June due to delays with the process at the provincial and federal levels. It’s also facing challenges related to land surface rights and negotiations with the province.
Then, earlier this month, the Mining and Lands Commissioner denied Cliffs the right to a road easement across the mining claims of KWG Resources, which it had been seeking to build an ore haul road out of its deposits in the James Bay region.
Bill Boor, the company’s senior vice-president of global ferroalloys, said in a Sept. 20 press release that without the ability to develop the “needed infrastructure” there “is no project.”
“While we are open to possible solutions, without a pathway developing quickly to overcome this major setback, it is going to be difficult for us to justify continuing with this project at this point in time.”
Kilgour said he’s not particularly concerned about what this statement by Cliffs means for the major development pinpointed for his ward.
“There’s been so much put into the environmental process and the planning for the Capreol aspect of it, that if it did change, they would literally be throwing away tens of millions of dollars,” he said.
“That’s not typical of the type of thing they do.”
Even if another company took over Cliffs — which he thinks could very well happen, given the frequency of buyouts in the mining industry — Kilgour said he still thinks they’d select Capreol for the chromite processing facility.
Besides, these are still early days, the municipal politician said. It typically takes about 10 years to develop a mine, and Cliffs has only been talking about this project for about two at this point, Kilgour said.
In his opinion, the mining companies involved in the Ring of Fire region are really just doing a lot of “posturing” to get the best possible deal for themselves.
“In my mind I’m still confident,” Kilgour said. “The whole Ring of Fire thing has to move forward. There’s just too much potential and money available over the next 100 years to make it not move forward.”
Mayor Marianne Matichuk was not immediately available to speak about Cliffs’ latest comments about its setback-ridden Ring of Fire project, but did issue an email statement.
“We have worked very hard here in this city to facilitate Cliffs’ investment in a chromite smelter, and we’re disappointed regulatory setbacks in northwestern Ontario threaten to delay the project further,” she said.
“We encourage the proponents, the provincial and federal governments and First Nations groups in northwestern Ontario to work together so all of Ontario can benefit from the massive potential in the Ring of Fire.”