Greenstone Mayor Ron Beaulieu wants answers from Cliffs Natural Resources on why his municipality was overlooked in the project planning for its Ring of Fire chromite project.
Beaulieu said Cliffs left many unanswered questions on the table following a presentation by CEO Joseph Carrabarra at an Aboriginal Business Council luncheon May 1 in Thunder Bay.
Carrabba came and went from the city without taking questions from the audience or media.
“We left disappointed by the sheer lack of information,” wrote Beaulieu in a May 4 letter to Carrabarra, especially on how power will generated and delivered to the mine site in the James Bay lowlands.
“We want to know the hard facts,” Beaulieu said in an interview with Northern Ontario Business. “We're not getting any answers. It's so vague.”
Cliffs is expected to make an announcement on the location of a ferrochrome smelter very shortly. The company has already secured a brownfield property north of Sudbury.
In his letter to Carrabarra, Beaulieu questioned whether Cliffs seriously considered other locations beyond Sudbury, which was identified in the company's project description as the best technical site for the chromite processing plant.
Greenstone, a rural municipality in northwestern Ontario, was competing for the smelter against Thunder Bay, Timmins and Sudbury.
“We have to put the point across because we're not getting any answers,” said Beaulieu. “The (provincial) government isn't saying, and we want to know what's happening with the resource in our neighbouring communities. It's important to us, it's about jobs.”
The ferrochrome processor could create 400 to 500 plant jobs.
Last November, a Greenstone delegation travelled to Cliffs' corporate headquarters in Cleveland to make its best sales pitch to host the smelter.
Its consultants mapped out a scenario to supply the mine and smelter with adequate power while also hooking up isolated First Nations to the provincial grid.
But based on the lack of follow-up by Cliffs, Beaulieu said he soon realized the company had its sites set on Sudbury all along.
“We want the company to do its full analysis before it makes a decision and look at all the impacts.”
Beaulieu said while Cliffs acknowledges there will be between 120 and 150 trucking jobs to haul ore from the mine to a proposed railhead in Greenstone, his community will not fully benefit from the development.
“The train is just going to go right by us, we'll be a major truck stop.”
The municipality's plan has drawn support from the Aroland and Marten Falls First Nation, who favour Greenstone as the processing site, but the First Nations also want a negotiated joint panel review on the project's environmental assessment.
The First Nations say a federal comprehensive environmental assessment, currently underway, does not go far enough.
Beaulieu supports the First Nations on the environmental front.
“We want to see the development move ahead and want to see the resources being utilized, but let's do it the right way and let's address the First Nation (issues).”
In his letter, Beaulieu wrote Cliffs' approach to development “seems to lack a cultural understanding of the area where the mining activity is proposed.”
Beaulieu said he was assured by Cliffs representatives at a meeting in Longlac that First Nation consultations were going well, but the Matawa chiefs have told him a different story.
The lack of consultation could severly hamper the company's timelines to be in production by 2015, said Beaulieu, who vows to keep the pressure on for Greenstone.
“The fight isn't over until the smelter is built.”