THUNDER BAY – The announcement that Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. is advancing its proposed chromite project in the Ring of Fire from pre-feasibility to the feasibility study phase is a step forward. However, the decision to locate the ferrochrome processing facility near Sudbury is a disappointment to NOMA’s 37 municipalities who were supportive of the Greenstone location.
“The decision to locate the ferrochrome processor in Sudbury represents a loss of 450 future jobs in Northwestern Ontario,” said Ron Nelson, NOMA President and Mayor of O’Connor Township. “We are disappointed that we were not successful in our efforts to locate the processor in Northwestern Ontario. However, we must not lose sight of the positive news that the Cliff’s project is moving forward to the next phase. Preliminary estimates indicate the creation of 450 jobs at the mine site and an additional 300 jobs through construction and operation of an all-season road. It is essential that training and recruitment in the region is a priority to ensure that local communities maximize the benefit from this local resource.”
“The decision on the north-south corridor for an all-season road will have a positive economic impact on Greenstone and the surrounding area; however, it could also have significant negative impacts on the municipalities of Pickle Lake, Ignace and Sioux Lookout by re-routing supply lines to the Far North. The government must work with these communities and others to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by the north-south decision.”
Nelson continued, “NOMA will persist in our advocacy efforts to ensure that Northwestern Ontario receives the highest possible benefit from mining developments across the region and to provide guidance on the vital transportation and electrical generation and transmission infrastructure investments that are needed to facilitate the full realization of these opportunities. We have provided valuable direction in past that has not been acted on and benefits have been lost. It is imperative that both municipal and First Nation communities are engaged in meaningful consultation at each stage of development.”
“The Province could have used this opportunity to announce a win-win for both Northeastern and Northwestern Ontario and unfortunately, that didn't happen. The absence of any specific Provincial economic development plans including a demonstrated commitment to infrastructure funding is very concerning. The need for strategic leadership by the Province comes at a critical time in the development of the Ring of Fire when the support of all Northwestern Ontario communities, most importantly Aboriginal communities, is absolutely needed," concluded Nelson.
Cromite Processing Facility ill-considered says Greenstone Mayor
Mayor Renald Beaulieu of Greenstone, the closest municipality to the Ring of Fire mineral find, was underwhelmed by today's announcement from Cliffs Natural Resources to locate the chromite refinery near Sudbury.
"It is truly unfortunate that Cliffs and the Provincial Government chose not to meaningfully consult with the directly affected First Nations and Greenstone prior to making and announcing their decision," stated Mayor Beaulieu.
Important questions remain unanswered by Cliffs and the Province said Beaulieu. In particular, it's hard to see how you can lead with a decision on a refinery location without an agreement on how you are going to obtain the ore body in the first place.
- Why are First Nation interests being ignored? Today's update confirms the suspicion of First Nations that a secret deal has been worked out between the Government of Ontario and Cliffs. That deal doesn't place any value on the support First Nations have offered for the project nor does it take their position on the mining activity seriously.
- What part of the Resolution made repeatedly by Matawa Tribal Council and First Nation leaders "if it is mined in Matawa Territory it must be refined in Matawa territory" do they not understand?
- With Provincial support and contributions in the millions of dollars, why is the Province saying repeatedly that the decisions are all in the hands of Cliffs Natural Resources?
- Why was Exton not considered as the refinery site, given its proximity to the site, superior transportation linkages, a long history of mining and exploration, an energetic workforce, ample space and significant support (NOMA Resolution - 37 Municipalities' unanimous support, support from First Nations, Chambers of Commerce, Métis of Ontario and others)? With today's update the Government of Ontario is committed to a regional electricity infrastructure upgrade that can readily address the issue of electricity supply.
- Why is the Exton refinery location not being used to provide a foundation to connect the First Nation communities (currently dependent on diesel generators) to the electricity grid and ensure that dirty diesel capacity will not be installed at the mine site?
"As we move into the feasibility phase we expect that Cliffs and Ontario will see that siting the refinery at Exton is not just technically feasible but advantageous to meeting the ambitious timeline to bring the mine into production," said Beaulieu. "It just seems odd that the company hasn't yet figured out that the Exton site makes their project feasible because it has support from First Nations. We will use the feasibility phase to drive this point home."
"A lot of people are shaking their heads at the idea that we are closing coal plants and at the same time allowing large scale diesel generation to be considered feasible, continued Beaulieu. "As the feasibility of diesel comes into question and more attention shifts to a stable supply of clean electricity, the path through Exton becomes clearer."
These are only a few of the many questions being asked by observers in Northwestern Ontario and by First Nation leaders. The Mayor stated, "If today was a final decision we would have had the Premier and the President of the Company rather than a conference call. We will use the feasibility study framework to get answers to the questions that have not yet been answered."
The Mayor concluded that Greenstone supports the position of Matawa that minerals mined in their territory are to be processed in their territory. He and his Council will continue to work closely with neighboring communities and First Nations to ensure the benefits associated with the Ring of Fire are realized and the environmental impacts minimized.