The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
Sudbury Star mining columnist Stan Sudol didn’t mince words about what the sale of the Cliffs’ camp
could mean. “I think this is another indication that Cliffs is a ‘dead man walking’ in the Ring of Fire,”
said Sudol. “The possibility of Cliffs building a furnace in Sudbury is also, unfortunately, very unlikely.”
Noront Resources Ltd. has purchased the exploration camp shuttered by Cliffs Chromite Ontario Inc. late last year when it announced it was indefinitely suspending its activities in the Ring of Fire.
Noront has been talking with the subsidiary of Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources since then about purchasing the camp, located 250 metres from Noront’s existing Esker Camp.
The sale of the camp is subject to certain conditions, one of them being the sale price not be revealed, said Noront president and chief executive officer Alan Coutts. If the deal goes through as expected, Noront will take possession of the camp early in the second half of this year.
What the sale means for Cliffs’ holdings in the Ring of Fire isn’t known. An email inquiry to the company about that Monday did not garner a response.
Coutts said his company hasn’t discussed purchasing Cliffs’ properties in the Ring of Fire, but it would certainly be open to that conversation.
“If Cliffs did initiate a process whereby they were interested in vending or doing something with their properties, for sure we’d be there in line having a look at things,” Coutts said Monday.
Noront is a small group that is essentially building a company, but it is committed to the Ring of Fire, he said.
“That’s our stomping grounds. We have no other directions. We’re strictly focused there,” said Coutts.
Noront has some large shareholders, so if it was looking to do an acquisition or financing, it could, said Coutts.
Sudbury Star mining columnist Stan Sudol didn’t mince words about what the sale of the Cliffs’ camp could mean.
“I think this is another indication that Cliffs is a ‘dead man walking’ in the Ring of Fire,” said Sudol. “The possibility of Cliffs building a furnace in Sudbury is also, unfortunately, very unlikely.”
Cliffs had said it intended to build a $1.8-billion ferrochrome processing plant near Capreol to process chromite ore mined in the Ring of Fire. The plant could have created up to 500 jobs in Sudbury.
Cliffs officials have said in recent months they haven’t given up on developing their holdings in the Ring of Fire, but its board of directors is not prepared to invest any more money there.
Sudol said activist American hedge fund Casablanca Capital is expected to try to take control of Cliffs board of directors at Cliffs annual general meeting on July 29. If that happens, divesting itself of the Ring of Fire properties could be a priority.
Coutts has other matters to think about right now, chief among them completing the environmental assessment process for Noront’s Eagle’s Nest nickel, copper and platinum group metals mine in the Ring of Fire.
The assessment was completed at the end of last year and was circulated for feedback. The federal government reviewed it and recommended more work and is calling for more data. The province has yet to review it. First nations in the area must also review and comment on it.
Coutts is hoping all of that work will be done, submitted and approved by the end of 2014, so his company can take advantage of the winter season to move equipment to the Eagle’s Nest site.
Noront already owns a camp that will accommodate 100 workers. It will be merged with the Cliffs’ 100-person camp and expanded upon to house the 700 or so workers who will be required to build the infrastructure for the Noront mine.
When it’s in full production, it will employ between 300 and 350 workers. The intent now is for Noront to ship nickel concentrate from the Ring of Fire to Sudbury for smelting.
The purchase of the Cliffs’ camp will speed up the construction timetable, said Coutts, because Noront won’t have to transport as much material to the Ring of Fire for the temporary housing so it gives the company “a bit of a leg up.”
Coutts was among the mining company executives with holdings in the Ring of Fire who were listening carefully to Monday’s debate between Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne and New Democrat leader Andrea Horwath. Both have pledged $1 billion to develop infrastructure for the Ring of Fire.
Coutts said he liked that both leaders made financial commitments to infrastructure and that they committed to timelines to get things running “sooner rather than later …
“To me that sends all the right signals,” he said.
For the original version of this article, click here: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2014/05/27/capreol-chromite-smelter-very-unlikely