A news conference was held at the Timmins Economic Development Corporation (TEDC) office Monday afternoon to outline some of the city’s plans.
Noront Resources is the Canadian junior mining company with the biggest claim to the major chromite and nickel discoveries in a remote region located in the James Bay Lowlands. It is the incredibly rich mining area known as the Ring of Fire, where the value of the minerals has been estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.
Timmins is one of four Northern Ontario locations that was shortlisted by Noront earlier this year and invited to submitted proposals. The other cities are Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.
And while the city works to put on its best face on the proposal, it was made clear Monday there are some attractive features that Timmins is offering, said Mayor Steve Black.
Perhaps the most attractive feature is the Glencore Kidd Operations metallurgical site in Hoyle Township in the city’s East End. Up until 2010, it was the site of the huge Kidd copper refinery. Black said the feeling at TEDC is this gives Timmins the most to offer of all the other communities.
“When you look at the assets and infrastructure available with our brownfield site in consideration, we think there is a lot of opportunity there for Noront to save some serious dollars,” said Black.
He said Noront had indicated the proposal must show a willingness on the part of the host community to accept a new smelter.
“When you look at the commitment of a community and the acceptance of a community to look at mining projects and metallurgical projects, there isn’t too many that can rival Timmins commitment to the mining industry.”
He said the timing of the Noront proposal fits in well with the anticipated closing of the Kidd Operation in Timmins around 2021.
“Normally, it would not be a good news announcement but when you look at having a readily available workforce and site, those timelines seem to line up very well,” said Black.
TEDC chairman Fred Gibbons said the Kidd site also has to be seen in the context that it was the last permitted metals refinery in Ontario, with all the environmental approvals that were required over the years. It was suggested this would make any new permitting process move more smoothly.
Gibbons said it would be reasonable to conclude there is an advantage to re-purposing an existing smelter facility rather than going in to an entirely new site and starting fresh.
He said the Timmins site also had several infrastructure advantages such as existing high voltage hydro lines, existing underground natural gas lines, and the railway infrastructure already on site, which includes a locomotive maintenance shop.
Gibbons added that rail plays a vital role in the city’s proposal.
“One of the significant partners to make this project viable for Timmins is the Ontario Northland Railway,” said Gibbons.
He said Ontario Northland would be needed to bring raw materials from the Ring of Fire into Timmins as well as transporting finished materials out of Timmins.
“I think this is an important opportunity for renewal of this rail line, as well, not just for the City of Timmins,” said Gibbons. “We’re going to go at it very seriously and we’ll put forward a world-class proposal I’m sure.”
Also taking part in the news conference was Timmins Chamber of Commerce president Jamie Clarke.
“We are really excited with this whole proposal we’re putting together,” said Clarke.
He added that Timmins has a century’s worth of world class business experience in the mining supply and service sector and that has to be taken seriously by any new mining or refining venture.
“Our business community is well equipped to support more projects,” said Clarke. “In turn, a project of this magnitude would greatly benefit the Timmins economy, creating new jobs, increasing municipal tax revenues and helping to offset some of the economic challenges our community will be facing in the upcoming years,” he said.
He added that the chamber is already moving forward with a letter-writing campaign to the business community and others, seeking written statements of support for the Timmins role in the Ring of Fire project.
Christy Marinig, the chief executive officer of the TEDC, said the letter-writing campaign would be an essential part of the Timmins response to Noront.
“What we wanted to really build momentum on is that we are working with the Chamber to ask businesses in the community and residents to send in letters of support for the ferrochrome facility to showcase why Timmins wants this site and to demonstrate willingness,” said Marinig.
“The goal will be to gather the letters here and we will put them in the final submission. So we want to showcase Timmins and we want a lot of letters of support. We don’t just a few. We want hundreds and hundreds.”