City officials attended a boisterous meeting in Coniston on Wednesday to discuss the prospect of a chromite smelter. Last week, the city named Coniston as its preferred location in its bid to Noront Resources for the smelter.
Ian Wood, the city’s director of economic development, said Wednesday Coniston was chosen as a location because the logistics made sense. It is zoned appropriately, it is a brownfield, and the site has proximity to water, Highway 17 and the railway, as well as easy access to hydro.
“The CN mainline is ideal,” Wood said. “Coniston sits very close to a main hydro-electric corridor, with the Hanmer transformer station. It’s critical for their power supply.”
While Moose Mountain, near Capreol, was the preferred location when Cliffs was considering Sudbury, Wood said Noront wanted something closer to a community.
Wood also said the permitting process could take as long as five years, hence the reason Noront is seeking a host now. Environmental assessments will be arduous, with several levels of government involved.
Residents were vocally unhappy with the proceedings of the meeting and expressed concerns about the long-term impacts of the smelter. They also said they had not been consulted on the decision to locate the smelter in the hamlet.
“If I were you, I’d worry about my children and grandchildren,” Douglas Chabot said. Chabot has grave concerns about hexavalent chromium.
“When the plant produces chromium, they end up producing hexavalent chromium and it’s very poisonous,” he said. “That was the same chemical that happened in Erin Brokovich. “¦ Hexavalent chromium is produced as part of the process – that’s why they call it a closed furnace.”
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