What has changed for Noront Resources since Cliffs Natural Resources’ 20th of November announcement that it will suspend its Black Thor chromite project in the Ring of Fire?
AC: From Noront Resources’ perspective, not much has changed since Cliffs Natural Resources’ announcement. Our Eagle’s Nest project is fundamentally different from what Cliffs had envisaged for their open-pit, bulk-transportation model Black Thor Project: Noront is focusing on a high-grade nickel-copper-platinum group underground mine – from a logistics point of view, this means small volumes of high-grade concentrate.
Consequently, our project economics and infrastructure needs are completely different than those of Cliffs. Furthermore, during our permitting process, we developed our environmental assessment not only for the mine site itself, but also for our transportation corridor and we continue to believe that an East-West route is more appropriate for our needs at this time.
Obviously, having an industry participant leave the region is never a positive development but we are hoping that there is a silver lining to that and this event will underline the need for more timely-decision making regarding key issues such as environmental permitting and infrastructure. These questions cannot remain unresolved forever and we hope that Cliffs’ decision is going to galvanize the process and hopefully bring the federal government to the table as well.
What is Noront Resources’ current focus at the moment and what are the key elements that make the company’s projects economically feasible in the Ring of Fire?
AC: Noront Resources’ focus at the moment is on advancing its Eagle’s Nest project, for which we published a NI 43-101 in September 2012. We are looking at a mine life of 11 years at roughly 1 million tonnes per year of throughput, which would consequently produce 150,000 tonnes per annum of high grade nickel-platinum concentrate. We have proven and probable reserves of 11 million tonnes but beyond that we have resources at below 1,000 meters that would add another 10 years of mine life at the same rate. Overall, we think our operation will have a total mine life of somewhere between 11 and 20 years.
In terms of economic feasibility, typical developments in remote areas deal with gold and diamonds, which do not require heavy infrastructure to be transported out of the mine site. Eagle’s Nest is different however, and its main advantages are its high grade reserve and the fact that it will have by-products. Noront Resources expects this mine to produce within the first quartile of nickel operations around the world and moreover, we will not rely exclusively on the economics of nickel for our success.
Could you tell us more about Eagle’s Nest’s unique aspects that allowed it to be designed as a low-environmental-impact operation?
AC: One of the key things when you are developing a mine is to design it in a way that will attract the fastest permitting. We looked at Eagle’s Nest’s unique aspects that would allow us to take away the concerns that the First Nations, authorities, and NGOs had. First of all, we designed an underground mine with a small surface footprint. Secondly, we are going to be recycling virtually all of the water so the only discharge to the environment will come from our camp activities. All our processing water will leave the project in the form of concentrate or will go down the hole as moisture for our paste.
Most operations have a tailings pond on the surface but in our case, all of our tailings will go underground – we will be able to do so due to the extra volume that our underground aggregate producing quarry will give us. In summary, the small footprint, the underground mill, the fact that we will not be discharging any processing water and the underground placement of our tailings make our project very unique. Noront believes these aspects make Eagle’s Nest a very acceptable operation in the minds of regional players in terms of attracting permitting.
For the rest of this interview, click here: http://gbroundup.com/2014/03/12/alan-coutts-president-and-ceo-noront-resources/