Sault Ste. Marie has landed the much-anticipated Ring of Fire smelter.
Noront Resources, the leading mine developer in the James Bay mineral belt, selected the northeastern Ontario city to be the home of its $1-billion ferrochrome production facility.
Noront has chosen the expansive port lands site on the Algoma Steel property for its ferrochrome production facility.
It's huge news for the city, which recently saw Algoma Steel (formerly Essar Steel Algoma), the community's largest private employer, go through a three-year creditor protection process that severely impacted the local economy.
The plant is expected to directly employ between 300 and 500, with more than 1,000 indirectly employed through local industrial suppliers. Construction of the processor is expected to begin in mid-2025 and will take three years to build.
The Toronto junior mining company said the Timmins Kidd Metallurgical site is no longer under consideration.
The cities were the last two in the running of what began as a four-community bidding process in February 2018. Sudbury and Thunder Bay were eliminated last July.
In a May 7 news release, Noront said its criteria for selecting a location was based on environmental and site suitability, capital and operating costs, and overall community acceptance.
Noront said the Timmins Met Site has the slightly lower capital cost but the Sault location has the lower operating cost per pound of chrome in ferrochrome. The two sites were similar on a discounted net present value, but the Sault came out on top when a 100-year mine life-of-project was considered.
“It was a very difficult decision because both cities submitted excellent proposals,” said Noront president-CEO Alan Coutts in a statement.
“In the end we were persuaded to go with Sault Ste. Marie because it is located on the Great Lakes and offers a lower long-term operating cost advantage.”
Noront said the next steps are to finalize the development plan and timelines for an all-season road to the Ring of Fire with the provincial government and their community partners.
The company expects a "lengthy and comprehensive" plant environmental permitting process to consult with local citizens, environmental groups and First Nations, among other stakeholders.
Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano was understandably thrilled with the news.
“This establishes what we know to be true: Sault Ste. Marie is a great place to do business.
“I want to recognize the efforts of the FPF (ferrochrome processing facility) project team, the support of the executive leadership at Algoma Steel, and the support of MP Sheehan, MPP Romano, Batchewana First Nation Chief Sayers and Garden River First Nation Chief Syrette. I also want to ensure our community and our Indigenous partners that we are committed to substantial consultation and engagement as we move forward.”
Energy, Northern Development and Mines Minister Greg Rickford, a former Noront board member, extended congratulations to Noront and Sault, and threw the provincial government’s support behind the development.
“Our government is committed to growing the economy, creating good jobs, and most importantly, ensuring that Northern Ontario is open for business.
“Today’s announcement confirms that commitment. Congratulations to Noront Resources and the City of Sault Ste. Marie.”
Premier Doug Ford chimed in on Noront’s site selection.
“This new processing plant has the potential to create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, benefitting skilled resource and manufacturing workers across the region.”