Approval sign of progress: Noront – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – June 23, 2015)

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

The approval with amendments of the terms of reference for Noront Resources’ Eagle’s Nest Mine is a sign of real progress in developing the Ring of Fire asset, says company president and chief executive officer Alan Coutts.

Noront now has “the clarity and the endorsement” it was seeking from the Government of Ontario to move ahead with work on the project, Coutts said Monday.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray announced Friday his ministry was giving a qualified approval to Noront’s terms of reference, the first step in the environmental assessment for the nickel, copper and platinum group element mine.

Noront submitted the terms of reference to the ministry in 2012, revised them at the ministry’s request and resubmitted them in December 2013, and has been waiting for approval to move ahead since.

The new round of amendments wasn’t completely unexpected, especially the technical ones, said Coutts, who couldn’t say how long it would take Noront to do the work on those amendments.

But his company is in a much better position than it was at the beginning of the year with this approval.

“Six months ago, we didn’t have terms of reference with amendments and we didn’t have the Cliffs properties and we didn’t have our exploration permits,” said Coutts. ” Now, we’ve got all those things so it’s definitely progress.”

Noront acquired Cliffs Natural Resources chromite assets in the Ring of Fire earlier this year, making it the largest player in the Ring.

When a mining company sets out to permit a project, it first completes a description of what that project will look like and how it envisions it.

Then it drafts terms of reference from an environmental point of view to support the project as the company has defined it, said Coutts.

While Noront was waiting for a decision from the ministry on those terms of reference, it hired environmental firm Knight Piesold Consulting to do some of the environmental work studies contained in the terms of reference.

So, while Noront has at times been frustrated with how long it has taken to get to this point, it has completed much of the work that supports the terms of reference it had proposed.

Knight Piesold conducted baseline studies, one of the most important elements of an environmental assessment, and sampling at the mine site and in the area Noront is proposing to build a road corridor.

When the consulting company finished the work, Noront still didn’t have approval from the province.

They sent the revised terms of reference to concerned stakeholders such as neighbouring first nations, the federal and provincial governments, and environmental organizations.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, meanwhile, announced last year it had reached a regional framework agreement with Matawa First Nations near the Ring.

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