The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins and Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs agree that the ferrochrome processor that is to be part of the Ring of Fire development needs to be in Northwestern Ontario, whether it is Thunder Bay or the Township of Greenstone.
Hobbs and Collins, along with other local leaders, returned to Thunder Bay on Wednesday following a trip to Cliffs Natural Resources headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, where they pitched Thunder Bay’s case as a potential site for the processor.
“The pitch was just that Thunder Bay may not be the base case, but it is the best case,” Hobbs said shortly after returning to the city. Sudbury is currently Cliff’s base case, but Hobbs said Northwestern Ontario will only benefit if chosen as the site. “There will be no benefit in this region if it goes to Sudbury,” he said.
The pitch focused on strong leadership and alliance with First Nations, Thunder Bay Hydro and the Thunder Bay Port Authority.
“I think we did everything that we could possibly do as a group,” Collins said.
“We put the best presentation on the table that we could, and at the end of the day they will make their mind up and do their selection as to where it goes, but I think we opened their eyes and their ears as to Thunder Bay and Fort William as the best case and the best solution.”
Hobbs and Collins recognize there are drawbacks for Thunder Bay as a potential site, such as the high cost of energy and transportation.
Hobbs said hydro is a weakness for everyone, but it is something the city needs to work on, and not just for the possibility of hosting a ferrochrome processor.
“We still have work to do,” Hobbs said.
“This is an ongoing thing. And not just for the processor, but for industry as a whole. Our industrial base is down and we need to build that up,” he said.
“Ultimately, power is the issue, where to get the right price on power,” Collins added.
“That will be (Cliffs’) decision, I’m guessing, when they move forward.”
Land availability was also a concern, but Collins said there are options, either in the city of Thunder Bay or on Fort William First Nation.
“As we flew in we looked at the perfect site, and it’s in the city of Thunder Bay,” Collins said.
“As partners we need to make sure these things happen to give our community hope and to give our community jobs and opportunity. That is what we are looking for,” he said.
If Thunder Bay is not the No. 1 choice, Collins and Hobbs said that they would like to see the processor located in Greenstone.
“It’s still a positive for the region and there is a lot of spinoff opportunity if it goes into Greenstone,” Collins said.
“I think the last thing we want it to do is spin off into Sudbury. I think at the end of the day there would be no real benefit for Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay region. If we are not the first choice we would prefer that Greenstone be the first choice,” he said.
Hobbs added that he has met with leadership in Greenstone, and will be meeting with them again to discuss the potential of making their case to Cliffs collectively.
He said one of the common denominators the two sites share is a strong relationship with neighbouring First Nations.
Cliffs is expected to make a site decision in the next two months.
Hobbs said that from what he has heard, the people of Thunder Bay are in favour of the processor coming to the region.
“There is no down side to this,” Hobbs said.
“If we don’t get this ferrochrome processor, we’ve put ourselves on the map. We’ve told Cliffs in no uncertain terms, and mining communities in general, that we want mining here. We want industry here and we want jobs for our people,” he said.
The processor would receive chromite, used to manufacture stainless steel, from the Ring of Fire, where Cliffs wants to have a mine operating by 2015.