Two iron mine closures in 2013 took a heavy toll on the Quebec-Labrador trough, but Tata Steel and partner New Millennium Iron Corp. are ramping up a new export project to hit annual capacity of 6 million tonnes next year.
The DSO (direct shipping ore) project, as it is known, is managed by Tata Steel, which also arranged the financing. It is mining high-grade iron ore (60 per cent average iron content), with the first 2 million tonnes being shipped to market directly and 4 million tonnes being upgraded in a new high-tech processing plant.
The products will move almost 600 kilometres by rail to Sept-Îles on the St. Lawrence north shore for loading into heavy ore carriers and delivery to Tata Steel furnaces in Europe and elsewhere.
The DSO Project, located well northwest of the two mothballed mines, has cost at least $560 million U.S. It has sufficient reserves for an active life of at least 15 years and will provide about 700 direct and indirect jobs. DSO has negotiated a benefits pact with the First Nations.
But Tata Steel, Europe’s second-biggest steelmaker and part of the giant Indian Tata Group conglomerate, is looking at something more ambitious: the Taconite project to develop several major iron deposits straddling the Quebec-Labrador border farther north near Schefferville. It would include a pelletizing plant at Sept-Îles.
“Developing both the DSO and Taconite projects would be transformational for the Quebec-Labrador trough,” Robert Patzelt, New Millennium’s chief executive officer, said in an interview.
Taconite’s two main deposits, LabMag and KéMag, have an indicated resource of almost 9 billion tonnes of 29-30 per cent iron-content ore, which would be concentrated to an average of 65 per cent to meet the steel industry’s stringent demands. The magnetite ore uses less energy when processed into pellets.
Each of two development phases would have annual capacity of 23 million tonnes of concentrates and require investment of about $7 billion U.S., including mining, rail transportation (600 kilometres) to Sept-Îles and pelletizing.
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