THUNDER BAY – The president and CEO of Noront Natural Resources acknowledges the acquisition of the claims formerly held by Cliffs Natural Resources is a game changer for the Ring of Fire.
Alan Coutts was in Thunder Bay on Friday in hopes of meeting with Matawa chiefs regarding the announcement earlier this week of Noront now holding nearly 65 per cent of the Ring of Fire.
While he did not get to meet with the chiefs, he said the consultation process needs to be completely re-evaluated. “I think we’ll probably have to take a couple of steps backwards to change the relationship and dialogue but ultimately it will allow us to go forward a lot further,” Coutts said at the company’s Thunder Bay office.
“We’re potentially redefining the landscape of how industry, First Nations and government work together for the entire nation.”
Matawa chiefs expressed concern about the sale, accusing the company of working outside of the framework agreement that had been signed last year and objecting to First Nations not having any input in the transaction.
The acquisition includes 103 claims owned by Cliffs Chromite Ontario Inc. and Cliffs Chromite Far North Inc., a deal which includes a 100 per cent stake in the Black Label chromite deposit, a 70 per cent interest in the Big Daddy chromite deposit and 85 per cent ownership of the McFauld’s Lake copper zinc resource.
The sale represents an overnight shift in the company’s role in the Ring of Fire.
Coutts said he thinks the comments from the chiefs come from the surprise of the deal, though it was necessary to stay quiet until the transaction was completed.
“Noront is now no longer the small, junior mining company that’s doing things in traditional ways in the shadows behind a big player. We have consolidated the entire camp. We are that big player now,” Coutts said.
He said the Eagle’s Nest nickel project, which Noront has spent nearly 10 years of exploration work, remains the company’s top priority and the logical first step in developing the area.
But now conversations about revenue sharing, equity interests and partnerships involve the whole picture, including the chromite holdings.
“I think what we have to think about is an entirely different business model as to how industry, First Nations and governments work together. This is certainly a rare opportunity to do that over a 50-year period,” Coutts said.
“I’m really excited and I think we have to sit down and have those conversations. Everything is on the table…We have to do this differently and it all starts with a principle based agreement.
Coutts added he is not sure when he will meet with the chiefs but is committed to engaging in meaningful dialogue.