Sparking up the Ring of Fire – by D’Arcy Jenish (Canadian Mining Journal – June 8, 2021)

Progress on infrastructure in remote region offset by opposition from several First Nations, environmental groups

Once there were many. Now there are just two. The discovery in 2008 of vast deposits of nickel, copper, chromite, platinum and palladium in the Ring of Fire, in Ontario’s remote Far North, fuelled dreams of fabulous wealth and unleashed a predictable stampede to stake claims.

More than 35 junior mining companies laid claim to a piece of this crescent-shaped, mineral-rich formation, which, by some estimates, spans 5,000 sq. km. Even once mighty Cliffs Natural Resources of Cleveland jumped in with grand plans to invest $3.3 billion to a build a mine, a processing facility and a transportation corridor of 300-plus km to the CN rail line at Nakina.

But Cliffs was later forced to file for bankruptcy protection. Exploration money dried up. The dreams of future wealth evaporated as the prospects of production receded ever further into the future. And one by one, all those juniors exited, leaving just two Toronto-based companies still standing – Noront Resources and KWG Resources.

“We looked at this strategically,” says Noront president and chief executive officer Allan Coutts. “We thought we could buy everyone out for pennies on the dollar and that’s what we did. We’ve got about 26 deposits under our flag. Nine of them have 43-101 resource-compliant files and two have had full feasibilities completed.”

The Eagle’s Nest nickel, copper, platinum and palladium project is one of those two and the most advanced in the Noront portfolio. Coutts says the company plans to ship nickel concentrate that resembles moist, black beach sand to smelters in Sudbury for further processing.

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