Ruling threatens Ring of Fire: Cliffs – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – September 21, 2013)

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

A recent decision by the Mining and Lands Claim Commissioner not to grant Cliffs Natural Resources an easement over claims staked by rival KWG threatens the development of the Ring of Fire in northwestern Ontario, says a Cliffs official.

Cliffs’ proposed 340-kilometre, north-south, all-weather road, which crosses unpatented mining claims of KWG Resources and other resource companies, is “essential” to the development of the Cliffs’ Chromite Project.

Cliffs plans to build a chromite smelter in Capreol that would create 400-500 permanent jobs. Without access to surface lands to develop “much-needed infrastructure, there is no project,” said Bill Boor, Cliffs’ senior vice-president of global ferroalloys.

While the company is open to discussions about how to work around the problem, “without a pathway developing quickly to overcome this major setback, it is going to be difficult to justify continuing with the project at this time,” said Boor in a news release Friday.

Boor did not say if Cliffs is going to appeal the decision released by the mining commissioner last week, but he said the decision is “not an appropriate use of mining claims under Ontario’s Mining Act.”

Cliffs has 30 days to appeal the decision, which was rendered Sept. 10.

Cliffs’ proposed road is a critical component of its Ring of Fire project, said Boor — including developing a mine and processing operation at the mine site, a transload operation near Greenstone and a ferrochrome processing facility in Sudbury.

Cliffs said the road is necessary to provide access to the Ring of Fire not only for its project, but for other mining and business opportunities, the Ontario government and first nations.

Earlier this year, Cliffs suspended its environmental assessment into developing its Black Thor deposit in the Ring of Fire, about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

Boor has also expressed his frustration that talks with the Government of Ontario to move his project forward are so slow.

Cliffs appears to have cleared one hurdle, however, and that is opposition to its development by Marten Falls First Nation.

Chief Eli Moonias said while hi s community still has many questions about the environment assessment process and the impact of Cliffs’ project on the area,

“we have decided to w ork with Cliffs to address these questions.”

His First Nation has opposed the claims that KWG staked, on a north-south esker located in the middle of muskeg, from the beginning because its members weren’t consulted.

The decision by the commissioner will “effectively block development of infrastructure that will be of great benefit to our community,” and that is unacceptable, he said.

Read more about this story later online and in Saturday’s Sudbury Star.

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