Capreol plant now uncertain: Cliffs – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – November 22, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

There is no guarantee — if and when Cliffs Natural Resources resumes work on its Ring of Fire chromite project — that it will build a ferrochrome processing plant in Sudbury, says a company spokeswoman.

The Cleveland-based company announced Wednesday it is indefinitely suspending work by the end of December on plans to mine chromite in the Ring of Fire and process it at the former Moose Mountain Mine site north of Capreol.

It has sunk $500 million into the project, but won’t invest any more capital given the uncertainty around the timeline for the project and the risks associated with infrastructure to develop its three deposits 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, said company spokeswoman Patricia Persico.

Many people weren’t surprised at the announcement Wednesday, as Bill Boor, Cliffs’ senior vice-president of global ferroalloys, had been warning for months his company was increasingly frustrated with its dealings with the Government of Ontario.

Sudbury Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci, who helped broker the agreement with Cliffs to locate the ferrochrome processing plant in Capreol, said while the announcement was disappointing, Cliffs was still committed to the Sudbury site for the plant. That decision was announced with great fanfare in May 2012.

But it may not stand, Persico said Thursday.

“I think right now, it’s just so premature to speculate because when you put a project like this (on hold), you suspend it indefinitely … there’s too many factors, we don’t know the timeline here, we don’t have a schedule so we just can’t make any assumptions on a lot of things at this point,” she said.

Cliffs made a business decision based on external factors including unfinished agreements with the Government of Ontario that were critical to the project’s economic viability, said Persico.

A recent decision by the Mining and Lands Commissioner, not to grant Cliffs an easement over claims staked by rival KWG Resources Inc. so Cliffs could build an all-weather road, was also a factor.

Cliffs appealed the decision, but it will be a lengthy process for that to occur, said Persico.

Another factor in stopping development was the delayed approval for the terms of reference for the provincial environmental assessment process, which Cliffs halted in June.

“These things have to come to resolution before we can consider any sort of restart,” said Persico.

Cliffs is closing its Thunder Bay and Toronto offices, and shutting down its exploration camp in the Ring of Fire. About 40 people are affected — 14 in Thunder Bay, 15 in Toronto and 12 in Cleveland, and 17 seasonal workers in the exploration camp.

Some employees will be retained by Cliffs, but others will lose their jobs.

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