Labour board rules against fired Sudbury Steelworkers – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – September 24, 2013)

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

Provincial arbitrator William Kaplan has ruled against three Steelworkers fired during the union’s year-long strike against Vale Ltd.

As a result, they won’t be getting their jobs back. USW Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said the three men – former local vice-president Patrick Veinot, current treasurer Jason Patterson and former member Michael French – won’t be rehired by the company.

The three were dismissed in January 2010 during the union’s strike against Vale after company officials said they violated Vale’s code of conduct when an incident occurred in the community.

A striking Steelworker who crossed the picket line and went back to work was accosted by the three members. Criminal charges were laid against the three because of the incident, although Veinot and Patterson were cleared of any wrongdoing.

French was convicted and was forced to write a letter of apology to the victim. The union received the decision on the workers’ fate Friday, said Bertrand. “It’s been a tough few days.” He and his members are “all shocked, outraged and very disappointed” with Kaplan’s decision, contained in his 73-page ruling, said Bertrand.

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Chromite mine, Capreol smelter uncertain: Cliffs – by Laura Stricker (Sudbury Star – September 24, 2013)

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

Three months after Cliffs Natural Resources stopped work on the Ring of Fire, the company has hit another roadblock.

Its application for an easement over claims staked by KWG was rejected two weeks ago. A Cliffs’ official isn’t sure where the company will go from here, or when it can get the project up and running.

“Unless a solution to that is found, it’s kind of a showstopper, potentially,” Bill Boor, the senior vice-president of global ferroalloys, said Monday. “I’m not saying that we’re resigned to that fact – we’re trying to pursue what options are available – but this ruling … as it stands today (means) we don’t have the land to develop the project.”

Cliffs made the request to the Ontario and Mining Lands Commissioner for exclusive rights to an area from the Ring of Fire to Nakina, a town about 260 kilometres from Thunder Bay. KWG, as well as a number of smaller mining companies, have staked claim to portions of that region.

Cliffs wants the land to build a road, while KWG is pushing for a rail line out of the Ring. “We were fairly confident that it made sense to allow the easement application to go forward, so I was a bit surprised by the decision,” said Boor, adding it’s possible they will appeal the ruling.

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Province must settle this [Ring of Fire] dispute – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial (September 22, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

A BUSINESS dispute over access to the Ring of Fire mineral belt has escalated to the point where the major player now claims the future of the entire development is threatened. Boardroom machinations are common in business but this goes far beyond a private enterprise spat. Determining how best to bring heavy chromite ore out of a vast tract of muskeg goes to the heart of a mining prospect so rich it stands to transform the moribund Northern Ontario economy and help the province itself recover economically.

So this impasse cannot be allowed to stand. It has to be solved and the province, as governor of mining activity, is the only party that can do it if lengthy court action is to be avoided. So far, however, Ontario has kept its hands off the dispute. That, too, cannot last.

Cliffs Natural Resources and KWG Resources cannot get past a tiff over land control. KWG’s search for diamonds led to the discovery of a mother lode of chromite, essential to stainless steel-making. It and Cliffs, a much bigger company, wound up partners but Cliffs eventually acquired a KWG partner and became the dominant Ring player intent on developing its Black Thor project including a road to bring ore out.

The road, using a desirable ridge of high ground seen as the key transportation corridor out of the Ring, would pass over some KWG claims. KWG remains fixed on its Big Daddy deposit and proposes instead a railroad.

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First Nations seek economic partnership with NEOMA – by Wayne Snider (Timmins Daily Press – September 23, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – First Nations and municipalities in the North face many of the same challenges in terms of economic development.

Now, it appears two key groups are ready to come together to foster growth. Mushkegowuk Council, which represents eight First Nation communities, has approached the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA) to develop a growth strategy.

Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) spoke to NEOMA members on Friday. Mushkegowuk Council is part of NAN, which represents 49 First Nations across Northern Ontario.

“We would like to propose an official entity of some kind to partner with NEOMA and Mushkegowuk Council,” Louttit said. “We would have an organization together, with people from your and our organizations, to foster business development, to take advantage of future business opportunities and economic development from the mining, forestry and tourism sectors.”

At the request of Mushkegowuk Council, NAN helped develop a proposal. This plan is currently being reviewed by Mushkegowuk Council and its member First Nations.

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Family has mixed feelings about Vale plea deal – by Heidi Ulrichsen (Sudbury Northern Life – September 21, 2013)

The sister of one of two Vale miners killed on the job in 2011 said in some ways, she’s glad lawyers representing the company and the Crown were able to come to a plea deal agreement for charges laid in the wake of the tragedy.

At least it saved her family the pain and stress of going through the full trial, Briana Fram said. Vale pleaded guilty to three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and was fined $1,050,000 on Sept. 17 in the deaths of Briana’s brother, Jordan Fram, as well as his co-worker, Jason Chenier.

The company originally faced nine charges, while supervisor Keith Birnie faced six. The remaining charges against Vale were dropped as part of the plea deal. The charges against Birnie were dropped after the Crown received information as part of trial submissions, and felt there was no reasonable chance of conviction.

While in some ways she’s glad not to have to go through a full trial, which was due to start in late October, Briana said she would have liked to see Vale held to account on all the charges. “We are happy they pled guilty, but it’s hard, because those charges were just so easily dropped,” she said. “That’s the way the judicial system is.”

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Cliffs won’t abandon chromite project: Kilgour – by Heidi Ulrichsen (Sudbury Northern Life – September 21, 2013)

There’s so much money to be made from the Ring of Fire and so many dollars have been invested already that it’s unlikely Cliffs Natural Resources will abandon its plan to mine and process chromite in Northern Ontario, said Dave Kilgour.

The Ward 7 city councillor represents Capreol, which was chosen by the Ohio miner last year as the place it wants to build a $1.8-billion facility to process ore from its Ring of Fire mine.

The Cliffs project has been plagued with setbacks in recent months. The company temporarily suspended the environmental assessment process in June due to delays with the process at the provincial and federal levels. It’s also facing challenges related to land surface rights and negotiations with the province.

Then, earlier this month, the Mining and Lands Commissioner denied Cliffs the right to a road easement across the mining claims of KWG Resources, which it had been seeking to build an ore haul road out of its deposits in the James Bay region.

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Ruling threatens Ring of Fire: Cliffs – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – September 21, 2013)

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

A recent decision by the Mining and Lands Claim Commissioner not to grant Cliffs Natural Resources an easement over claims staked by rival KWG threatens the development of the Ring of Fire in northwestern Ontario, says a Cliffs official.

Cliffs’ proposed 340-kilometre, north-south, all-weather road, which crosses unpatented mining claims of KWG Resources and other resource companies, is “essential” to the development of the Cliffs’ Chromite Project.

Cliffs plans to build a chromite smelter in Capreol that would create 400-500 permanent jobs. Without access to surface lands to develop “much-needed infrastructure, there is no project,” said Bill Boor, Cliffs’ senior vice-president of global ferroalloys.

While the company is open to discussions about how to work around the problem, “without a pathway developing quickly to overcome this major setback, it is going to be difficult to justify continuing with the project at this time,” said Boor in a news release Friday.

Boor did not say if Cliffs is going to appeal the decision released by the mining commissioner last week, but he said the decision is “not an appropriate use of mining claims under Ontario’s Mining Act.”

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Province not giving up on Ring of Fire – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – September 21, 2013)

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

Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said although Cliffs Natural Resources made its position clear Friday about its Ring of Fire project, he is encouraged the company “continues to be open to finding possible solutions and is looking at a number of options.

“From our perspective, we remain very committed to this project,” he said. ” The province recognizes the great opportunity we have with the Ring of Fire development and we are … very committed to seeing sound strategic development in the Ring of Fire.”

Gravelle said the province is making progress in moving development of the Ring of Fire forward. He cited negotiations led by former justice Frank Iocabucci and former Liberal leader Bob Rae as encouraging.

So was the announcement from Rae last week that the Matawa Council, comprised of nine First Nations near the Ring of Fire whom he represents, was withdrawing its application for a judicial review of the project.

That’s a positive step and there are others, including community readiness initiatives and other investments to ensure Northern communities benefit from developing the Ring of Fire.

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Ontario Northland should be Ring of Fire railroad – by Staff (Northern Ontario Business – September 20, 2013)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.

Ring of Fire junior miner, KWG Resources, is refloating the concept of using the Ontario Northland Railway (ONR) to haul ore out of the Ring of Fire in the James Bay region.

In a Sept. 16 news release, the Toronto-based company said it supports the “New Deal” business plan being proposed by the unions at the Crown-operated transportation agency.

According to KWG, a new agency should be established, governed by the First Nations and other regional stakeholders with federal oversight.

This agency would finance the railroad’s construction and continuing operations of the ONR by providing rail service “at cost” to the mining companies operating in the remote Far North camp. KWG is the holder of the only staked corridor out of the region. The company said it will make its right-of-way available for ONR use.

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UPDATED: Vale fine to go to city [Sudbury] – by Star Staff (Sudbury Star – September 20, 2013)

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

The more than $1 million Vale Canada was fined for the deaths of two Stobie Mine employees will go to the City of Greater Sudbury, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour confirmed Thursday.

Matt Blajer said on top of the $1.050 million fine, Vale has to pony up an additional 25% — or $250,000 — which will be put into a provincial fund for victims of crime. The fine will go into the city’s general revenue stream, city spokesperson Shannon Dowling said.

On Tuesday, Vale pleaded guilty to three charges under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act for the deaths of Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26. On June 8, 2011, the men were crushed by a 350-ton run of muck at the 3,000-foot level of the mine.

The company was originally facing nine charges, while supervisor Keith Birnie faced six. Joe Cimino, a city councillor who’s also vying for the provincial NDP nomination, called the plea bargain upsetting.

“What’s happened is, now there’s more questions in the community than there are answers,” he said. “This shut a door to a public trial. We need a full inquiry now, not in 10 years. “This is so unfair to the families.”

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Northern [Ontario] Policy Institute needs tangible goals: chair – Staff (Northern Ontario Business – September 2013)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.

Martin Bayer doesn’t mince words when discussing the mandate of the Northern Policy Institute. There’s no point in wasting money on research papers if that work sits unused on a shelf somewhere, he said.

“I think we have to make sure we don’t allow ourselves to be yet another organization that generates more research papers with some recommendations that never get implemented or simply aren’t practical,” said Bayer, a Sudbury-based lawyer who was appointed the institute’s chair in February. “We want to be careful about that and be sure that if we are commissioning research and it’s evidence-based, it’s relevant, it’s going to be meaningful and it’s going to be used.”

As one of the primary recommendations to come out of the province’s 2011 Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, the institute has been charged with the development of policy options that reflect challenges faced by Northern Ontario and that foster sustainable development and long-term economic prosperity.

Bayer outlined the institute’s mandate, priorities and work to date during a luncheon sponsored by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 17.

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Inquiry into mining safety long overdue – by Brian MacLeod (Sudbury Star – September 19, 2013)

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

“Something’s wrong,” Sudbury Star mining reporter Carol Mulligan said upon returning from a Vale Canada press conference in January 2012 called to explain the deaths of two miners 3,000 feet underground the previous June. “We’re not getting the whole story.”

On June 8, 2011, Jason Chenier, 35, a father of two young children, and Jordan Fram, 26, were crushed under 350 tonnes of wet, broken ore, known as muck, that had become stuck in a tunnel known as an ore pass.

The nature of the press conference — reporters were allowed to look at information presented, but were not given copies — and the demeanour of the presenters, was odd. Reporters in Sudbury are accustomed to procedures in mining deaths. The report made 30 recommendations to improve safety and the company was acting on them, officials said.

Yet Mulligan’s instincts were right. On Monday, Vale Canada pleaded guilty to three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The company was fined $350,000 on each charge, plus a 25% surcharge. It was, Crown attorney Wes Wilson said, the largest ever fine levied under the act for health and safety issues. Six other charges were dropped, as were charges against a mine official.

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Push for mine safety inquiry continues – by Jonathan Migneault (Sudbury Star – September 19, 2013)

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

Vale Canada Limited’s plea bargain with the Ministry of Labour Tuesday, regarding deaths of two Stobie Mine employees in 2011, has created a stronger case for a provincial inquiry on mine safety, said Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas.

“Now that we’re not going to have our day in court it creates one more argument for an inquiry,” said Gelinas. Vale pleaded guilty to three charges under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act Tuesday, and was charged $1.050 million as a deterrent. The company made a joint submission with the Crown that it be fined $350,000 per charge.

Gelinas said the families of Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, who were crushed by a 350-ton run of muck at the 3,000-foot level of the Stobie Mine on June 8, 2011, would never have the chance to hear the full story surrounding their deaths.

“A trial is an opportunity for many people to gain closure because you get to the bottom of the story,” Gelinas said. The provincial NDP and the United Steelworkers have long called for an inquiry into the province’s mining deaths.

Mike Bond, chair of health, safety and environment for the United Steelworkers Local 6500, said he was disappointed with Tuesday’s outcome.

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Conservatives endorse mining tax royalties for First Nations – by Bryan Phelan (Wawatay News – September 18, 2013)

Ontario Progressive Conservatives say a share of the mining tax royalties should go to First Nations and other communities that build and support new mines.

Tim Hudak, the PC leader, introduced a policy “white paper” outlining his party’s position on the North during a visit to Thunder Bay on Sept. 17.

“The Ring of Fire is the greatest mining discovery of a lifetime but the project has gone nowhere,” Hudak stated in the introduction to the policy paper, titled Paths to Prosperity: A Champion for Northern Jobs and Resources.

To ensure mining development moves ahead, “As a first step, we need to work with business and Aboriginal communities to expedite the construction of an all-season transportation link to the Ring of Fire deposits,” the paper suggests.

The policy release comes one week after the Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner dismissed an application from Cliffs Natural Resources for an easement that would allow the company to build an all-weather road to the Ring of Fire over mining claims staked by another company.

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Vale’s Manitoba Operations has reached 95 per cent of cost savings goal, Lovro Paulic says – by John Barker (Thompson Citizen – September 18, 2013)

The Thompson Citizen, which was established in June 1960, covers the City of Thompson and Nickel Belt Region of Northern Manitoba. The city has a population of about 13,500 residents while the regional population is more than 40,000.

But smelter and refinery “base case” is still to close sometime in 2015

Vale, which is trying to find $100 million in cost savings at its Manitoba Operations in Thompson, has achieved 95 per cent of that goal over the last year – a cost savings of $95 million with $5 million still to go, vice-president Lovro Paulic told the Thompson Chamber of Commerce Sept. 11.

Paulic said $60 million was saved last year and $35 million has been saved so far this year. Ninety per cent of the money was saved between September 2012 and last April, while anther five per cent has been saved since then. That leaves another five per cent to go to reach the $100 million target.

The result of the collective cost-savings effort across the operation was a reprieve for Birchtree Mine from being mothballed again for a second time. Birchtree Mine, which was discovered for its nickel deposit in 1963 and opened in 1968, was previously on care and maintenance for nearly 12 years from 1977 to 1989, although regardless if it is mothballed or not, the current life of mine plan anticipates closure at some point in the next 10 years in any event.

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