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TORONTO – The proposed development of Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” is facing greater uncertainty, as the province’s Mining and Lands Commissioner has made a key ruling against the company expected to build the region’s first mine and much of its infrastructure.
“This puts the project in jeopardy,” said Patricia Persico, director of communications for Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
Cliffs wants to build a road to the Ring of Fire, located in the James Bay Lowlands, that could be used to transport ore. This is controversial, because the proposed road would cross over mining claims owned by KWG Resources Inc., a tiny junior miner that staked the ground for a potential railroad.
Commissioner Linda Kamerman rejected Cliffs’ request for an “easement” that would allow the company to build a road crossing over KWG’s claims. In a lengthy decision, she said the request breaches KWG’s rights under Ontario’s Mining Act and that Cliffs did not demonstrate the road is in the public interest.
Cliffs claims the road would provide a useful link to First Nations communities, an idea that is also supported by Queen’s Park. But the commissioner wrote that there was no evidence of a “public component” to Cliffs’ application.
The ruling throws a big question mark over Cliffs’ development plans.
The Cleveland-based miner claims the only way to make its US$3.3-billion Chromite project in the Ring of Fire viable is with an all-weather road. The company suspended work on the project in June, and one of the reasons was uncertainty over these surface rights.
Looking ahead, Cliffs’ options include negotiating a solution with KWG, or just buying the company outright. KWG has a tiny market value of $38-million, meaning Cliffs (which is worth $3.6-billion) could absorb it easily. But it is clearly not the company’s preference, even though it has bought other juniors miners that were active in the Ring of Fire.
“We’ll continue to work with the province, First Nations and other companies in hope that we can overcome this roadblock and develop what we ultimately believe is very important infrastructure to the Ring of Fire,” Ms. Persico said.
For the rest of this article, click here: http://business.financialpost.com/2013/09/11/ring-of-fire-road-rejection-a-setback-for-cliffs-natural-resources/