Noront Resources says it will work with Cliffs Resources and the Ontario government on building a north-south transportation route to the Ring of Fire.
The announcement, made by Noront President and CEO Wes Hanson during a speech to a New York mining investment seminar, casts doubt on the possibility of an east-west road corridor connecting the Ring of Fire and four Mattawa First Nations to Pickle Lake. Noront was the main industry proponent of an east-west corridor.
Hanson said his company’s decision to reevaluate its proposed transportation corridor was “unfortunate,” but said Noront was forced to do so after Cliffs and Ontario committed to building the north-south corridor.
“One of the reasons we selected this (east-west) routing was largely because of social responsibility. We were trying to work with First Nations,” Hanson said. “But now we have a company with an $8 billion market cap committed to building the north-south route, and Ontario government support committed to building the north-south route.
“We’re more than happy to coordinate with them,” Hanson said, adding that the north-south route will be cheaper for Noront as it is a shorter distance to get the materials to market.
Hanson said Noront plans to start discussions with both Ontario and Cliffs to see how the three parties can cooperate on building the north-south transportation corridor.
On May 9 Cliffs announced its plans to go ahead with the $3.3 billion chromite mine in the Ring of Fire, a north-south transportation route to connect to highway 11 near Nakina and a processing plant in Sudbury.
The announcement was met with outrage from First Nation leaders across northwestern Ontario. Many of the leaders wanted the processing plant built in Greenstone to keep jobs and benefits in the region.
Following the announcement Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose said he will advise the chiefs of the region to look at reevaluating support for mining in the region.
“It’s obvious the province and Cliffs haven’t been listening to First Nations, and what their concerns and their aspirations are,” Waboose said on May 9. “Today is a classic example of development going ahead without adequate consultation, input and consent from our First Nations.”
Four Mattawa First Nations – Nibinamik, Neskantaga, Webequie and Wunnumin – had also signed an agreement to work together on building and operating an east-south transportation route, a plan that had been previously endorsed by Noront.
Hanson said the company will delay its feasibility study for up to two months as it reassesses costs based on the north-south route.
He told the New York audience that Cliffs had a “significant backlash” against the north-south route from First Nations in the region, but that the problems can be worked out over time.
“It’s just communication, and making sure (First Nations) understand the message and opportunity that development of this region offers for their community,” Hanson said.
Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias has said he will die before allowing the mine to be built on his First Nation’s traditional territory.