Noront CEO seeks to clear the air on smelter technology, environmental safeguards
Erin Brockovich might be the most watched movie in Sault Ste. Marie these days. When Noront Resources president Alan Coutts grabs the mic at the Delta Hotel on Oct.23 for the first of, likely, many community presentations, he’ll have to reassure residents that the Sault won’t become Hinkley, Calif., and remind them that his company’s proposed ferrochrome smelter isn’t getting built anytime soon.
“We have no interest or intention of doing anything that could potentially harm the people of Sault Ste. Marie or our (future) employees,” Coutts told Northern Ontario Business.
Five months after the Steel City was selected as the home of Noront’s proposed $1-billion processing plant, opposition began to swell after a group of physicians released a letter to local politicians suggesting there could be an exodus of medical professionals from the community if the furnace were to become reality.
Within days, university academics, environmentalists, and concerned citizens gathered in a hotel ballroom to question whether the promise of 300 to 500 plant jobs was worth the risk of public exposure to hexavalent chromium – chromium-6 – a waste byproduct of ferrochrome production and a known carcinogen.
By early October, an online anti-ferrochrome plant petition had surpassed 8,600 names. “It’s a concern, as a physician, that we’re putting that in the midst of our city,” said Dr. Robert Suppes, an emergency room physician at Sault Area Hospital, who helped draft the letter.