It’s time to get political about the Ring of Fire. Noront Resources, the leading mine developer in the Far North, is eyeing Sault Ste. Marie as one of four sites in Northern Ontario for a potential ferrochrome smelter. Company president-CEO Alan Coutts is making it known he’s putting mining on the campaign agenda in that city’s upcoming provincial byelection on June 1.
Coutts is speaking at a Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce on May 10. The Sault is on Noront’s shortlist – along with Timmins, Sudbury and Thunder Bay/Fort William First Nation – to be the host community for a $600 million to $800-million plant to process chromite into ferrochrome, a critical ingredient used in stainless steel production.
Between now and the end of June, Coutts and his chief development officer, Steve Flewelling, will be visiting prospective sites and making public presentations in each city. “We’re going through this process, and we’d like to have the site selected by the end of the summer.”
There hasn’t been a new smelter permitted in Ontario since the Kidd Metallurgical Site in Timmins, which was built in 1980 and closed in 2010. On a site they want close to the Great Lakes, Coutts said they need an appropriate brownfield site, power and rail connections, a skilled workforce, community support, and access to the northeastern U.S. market, where potential stainless steel customers are located.
But with no infrastructure money coming from Queen’s Park to build an access road to reach Noront’s nickel and chromite deposits in the remote James Bay lowlands – and even more government foot-dragging on selecting a route – Noront’s mine construction plans for 2019 and beyond, is on hold.
“We’re using the Sault byelection in our favour,” said Coutts. “We’re talking to the community and saying, we want to consider you as a viable site for the ferrochrome plant but, ultimately, until we get a road in place, there’s nothing,” said Coutts.
For three years, Queen’s Park has promised to earmark $1 billion to build an all-season and shared industrial and community corridor to move ore and connect isolated First Nation communities to the provincial highway system.
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