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Hatch, Algoma Steel join Noront’s Ring of Fire team

Mine developer signs long-term lease in Sault, hires engineering firm to advance mine projects
Noront Ring of Fire drilling
Summer exploration drilling by Noront Resources at McFaulds Lake in the Ring of Fire (Noront photo)

Ring of Fire mine developer Noront Resources has signed with a global engineering firm to bring its mine projects to reality and has also inked a lease agreement with its new Sault Ste. Marie landlord, Algoma Steel, to establish a processing plant on the steelmaker's property.

Consulting engineers Hatch are coming aboard as an equity partner with Noront to create an integrated project management and engineering team that will manage and carry out the mine development in the James Bay region.

The firm is in charge of engineering and project support services for the Eagle’s Nest nickel mine development and Noront's string of chromite projects as part of a master services agreement.

The news release did not indicate how much of an equity stake Hatch is taking in this arrangement.

In a statement, Noront calls the two agreements “another step” to carry forward development in the Ring of Fire in concert with area First Nations, contractors, suppliers, and communities in the North.

Noront expects to begin mining the first of its string of nickel and chromite deposits – Eagle’s Nest – by 2024 if the provincial government can deliver on the completion of a north-south road to the remote, high-grade deposits, 535 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

“Noront is partnering with two Ontario-based industrial and engineering giants to advance Ring of Fire development,” said company president-CEO Alan Coutts in a Sept. 20 news release.

“This is truly a ‘made-in-Ontario’ collaboration on one of the most economically and socially important projects our province has seen.”

With Algoma Steel, Noront has inked a five-year, renewable option to lease an industrial brownfield site, west of the steel works, for a period of 99 years.

Noront intends to build a ferrochrome processing plant on the property to feed Ring of Fire chromite ore to convert into ferrochrome, a semi-finished product used in the making of stainless steel.

The junior miner selected the Sault to be the plant's host community last May.

In consideration, Noront will issue Algoma 750,000 common shares and 750,000 warrants to purchase common shares.

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“We view the Noront project as a valuable business partnership for Algoma Steel and an exciting opportunity for Sault Ste. Marie,” said Algoma CEO Michael McQuade through a Noront news release.

“Our discussions have uncovered numerous economic synergies through the shared use of assets and services, and we look forward to exploring these options further with Noront, the City and the many stakeholder groups who may be engaged in this project.”

“The Ring of Fire represents a significant opportunity, not only for Noront and Algoma, but also for Northern Ontario and local First Nations,” added Hatch’s Global Managing Director of Metals Joe Lombard.

“We’re excited to be a part of these transformative projects and committed to partnering with Noront to develop innovative solutions that will bring long-term prosperity to the region."

Sault MPP Ross Romano said developing the Ring of Fire and securing the ferrochrome plant for his riding has been a priority of him for a few years.

“With agreements now in place, I look forward to the next phase of the process and will be working with our business partners every step of the way.”