A scanning electron micrograph of reduced chromite ore using natural gas. Sudbury was being considered to host the ferrochrome production facility, but Noront announced Friday it is out of the running. (KWG Photo)
Sudbury is out of the running for the ferrochrome smelter.
Noront Resources Ltd. announced Friday it has whittled its choices for the ferrochrome production facility to two northern cities: Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie. Thunder Bay and Sudbury have been removed from further consideration.
Mayor Brian Bigger said he was disappointed to learn the news.
“Today I, along with city staff, met with Al Coutts and Steve Flewelling of Noront Resources. I was disappointed to learn that Noront Resources had decided not to proceed further with the proposed Greater Sudbury site for their ferrochrome production facility. While this was difficult news to hear, they also reinforced what we already know; that our strength in the industry is in our labour force, the cost of doing business in the community and the supply capacity of the sector,” he said. “We are very much looking forward to continuing to work with Noront Resources with opportunities that present themselves from the Ring of Fire, such as the refining of nickel in our community. I will continue to champion economic development and job creation in our community, and will use the information provided today to refine our strategies moving forward. I would like to thank staff and our community partners for their hard work and collaboration during this entire process.”
Four communities participated in the bidding process, which began in February. The submissions were evaluated based on a comprehensive set of criteria determined by Noront and the engineering firm Hatch, which was engaged to assist in the adjudication process. Critical factors included environmental and site suitability, capital costs, operating costs and an assessment of community acceptance of hosting the facility.
“The quality of the submissions was outstanding and demonstrated a significant effort by each of the communities involved,” Coutts, Noront’s president and CEO, said. “They each provided a compelling case that illustrated the merits of their location as a host for the ferrochrome production facility.”
While the Sudbury proposal had the lowest operating cost, it included significant capital costs, such as site preparation earthworks and the re-establishment of critical infrastructure. It also faced strong opposition from the local community.
Kate Kearney, a member of No Ferrochrome Sudbury, said members of the group were concerned about the potential impacts the smelter — which would have been located on a former Vale site in Coniston — could have had on drinking water and health.
Thunder Bay had strong community support, including that of Fort William First Nation; however, the presence of a water body transecting the property reduced the environmental acceptability of the site and costly power infrastructure needs created a further issue.
“While the news is disappointing, the feedback received from Noront reinforces the advantages and strengths Greater Sudbury has to offer economic investment opportunities, including the future benefits our local companies will see from the Noront project, regardless of where the site is located,” Brian Vaillancourt, chair of the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation, added. “We will learn from this experience as we undertake a review of our employment lands strategy in 2019, and I know there are other exciting opportunities on the horizon for Greater Sudbury.”
The next and final phase of the site selection process is now underway. It includes substantial negotiation of commercial use terms with the owners of the two favoured sites.
With support from key community partners, including Wahnapitae First Nation and Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, the city submitted its bid to Noront Resources in February. The total cost of the local bid is estimated at approximately $90,000 and was funded through the GSDC.
Noront plans to make its final decision later this summer. Construction of the $1-billion ferrochrome production facility is proposed to begin within the next five to 10 years. The facility will create approximately 350 permanent jobs and approximately 150 indirect jobs in its host community.