Cliffs Backing Off on Ring of Fire?

Of concern to many First Nation leaders going forward in an evolving 21st Century mining era, are issues around the environment, social impacts and economic benefits.
Of concern to many First Nation leaders going forward in an evolving 21st Century mining era, are issues around the environment, social impacts and economic benefits.

North American Palladium Cliffs Natural Resources Mining CoresCliffs Signalling a Change in the Ring of Fire

THUNDER BAY – Opinion – Cliffs Natural Resources appears to be slowly stepping back from the Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario. First the company suspended its Environmental Assessment, then the company lost a decision on building a roadway to the company’s chromite find.

Cliffs Natural Resources Bill Boor
Bill Boor – Cliffs Natural Resources

The move is putting more mortar to the idea that the company might be looking to pull back even more. It could also be a move that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has been telegraphing recently with a determination that getting the Ring of Fire “right” is extremely important.

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLF) (Paris: CLF) stated that the decision by the Mining and Lands Commissioner related to its Chromite Project in Ontario, Canada, is disappointing and one that threatens the development of the Ring of Fire mining district.

In a statement, Cliffs says, “The Company’s proposed north-south all-weather road, which crosses unpatented mining claims of KWG Resources and other resource companies, is essential to the development of the Ring of Fire and a necessary component of Cliffs’ Chromite Project. Cliffs disagrees with the decision and contends that this is not an appropriate use of mining claims under Ontario’s Mining Act. Further, the Company sees no conflict between the legitimate uses of a mining claimholder and the proposed road, which has great benefits for Northern Ontario”.

Without Access There is No Project – Cliffs

[sws_pullquote_right] It is going to be difficult for us to justify continuing with the project at this point in time [/sws_pullquote_right] “Without access to the surface lands to develop the needed infrastructure, there is no project. Our proposed development has the scale needed to develop the road access and is therefore a catalyst for other smaller mining opportunities in the Ring of Fire. Cliffs is very disappointed in this decision, but beyond our project, it is clearly an issue for anyone interested in seeing these opportunities in the Ring of Fire becoming realities,” commented Bill Boor, SVP Global Ferroalloys with Cliffs. “While we are open to possible solutions, without a pathway developing quickly to overcome this major setback, it is going to be difficult for us to justify continuing with the project at this point in time.” 

The Company stated that the proposed 340 km all-weather road is a critical component of its overall project which includes the development of a mine and processing operation at the mine site, a transload operation in the Greenstone area, and a Ferrochrome Processing Facility in Capreol (near Sudbury). Cliffs believes the infrastructure is necessary to provide access to the Ring of Fire, not only for Cliffs’ proposed project, but for other possible mining and business opportunities in the region, for the Ontario government, and for remote First Nations communities in the Far North.

The Company indicated that with an investment of this scale, its project holds tremendous future opportunity for Ontario. Cliffs’ Chromite Project is projected to provide approximately 1,200 direct jobs and significant economic benefit opportunities for First Nations, resource companies and stakeholders in the region, as well as the province as a whole. In addition, it is projected that significant development opportunities for the First Nations communities in the region will also occur.

“From the beginning, Marten Falls disagreed with the staking of mining claims along the corridor without our consultation,” commented Chief Eli Moonias of Marten Falls First Nation. “Now, the decision by the Ontario Government, that allows these claims to effectively block development of infrastructure that will be of great benefit to our community, is unacceptable. While we have a long way to go with questions about the environmental impacts as well as the future benefit agreement before our community supports the development, we have decided to work with Cliffs to address these questions. The decision along these historically contested claims to once again block our interests is troubling to say the least.”

As previously disclosed, Cliffs has temporarily suspended the environmental assessment activities due to delays related to the environment assessment process, land surface rights, and stalled negotiations with the Province of Ontario.

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