TORONTO — Noront Resources Ltd. has announced it has narrowed the choice of prospective locations for its proposed Ring of Fire ferrochrome production facility to two northern Ontario cities: Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie.
The decision, announced July 13, means Thunder Bay and Sudbury have been removed from further consideration, said a media statement.
The smelter would process chromite mined from Noront’s deposits in the Ring of the Fire in the James Bay lowlands.
Four communities participated in the bidding process which began in February 2018. The statement said submissions were evaluated based on a set of criteria determined by Noront and the engineering firm Hatch, which was engaged to assist in the adjudication process. Factors included environmental and site suitability, capital costs, operating costs and an assessment of community acceptance of hosting the facility.
“The quality of the submissions was outstanding and demonstrated a significant effort by each of the communities involved,” said Noront president and CEO Alan Coutts in the statement. “They each provided a compelling case that illustrated the merits of their location as a host for the ferrochrome production facility.”
While the Sudbury proposal had the lowest operating cost, it included significant capital costs such as site preparation earthworks and the reestablishment of critical infrastructure, the release said. There was also strong opposition from the local community, said Noront.
In Thunder Bay, the presence of a body of water transecting the property reduced the environmental acceptability of the site and costly power infrastructure needs created a further issue.
The final phase of the site selection process is now underway and includes negotiation of commercial use terms with the owners of the two favoured sites. Noront expects this stage to be concluded in the fourth quarter of 2018, the statement said.
Noront said earlier this year that if road construction to the Ring of Fire is completed by 2022, the firm could begin producing nickel and copper out of its Eagle’s Nest deposit late that year and then it would take next steps towards development of its nearby Blackbird chromite deposit.
Ferrochrome is an alloy produced out of chromite, with an end consumer use being stainless steel.