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Wyloo Metals wants to rain money for a clean mining, inclusive Ring of Fire

Australian miner floats battery metals supply chain concept, proposes $100 million in First Nation contract awards
Noront esker camp fox
(Noront Resources photo)

If a mine gets built in the Ring of Fire under the Wyloo Metals flag, it will be a net zero emissions operation.

The Australian mining investment company, which is making a play to take over Noront Resources' nickel, chrome and metal assets in the James Bay region, said it's prepared to open its wallet to find ways to reduce the environmental impact of mining in the Far North, will train and hire Indigenous people, and will award millions in contracts to First Nation-owned companies.

The Perth-headquartered company is floating the concept of a Future Metals Hub that would be developed in collaboration with First Nation communities and other regional stakeholders. Their intent is to look at the possibility of establishing a supply chain in Ontario to make the materials needed for the electric vehicle battery industry.

Wyloo owns 37 per cent of Noront in shares and convertible debt after a deal was struck last fall. The Australian company wants to acquire all of the shares in Noront that it does not currently own. Despite their unsolicited offer, Wyloo has not yet made a formal bid to Noront.

In a May 31 news release, Wyloo said the proposed Eagle's Nest nickel mine – the first mine project in the development queue –will be a zero carbon emissions mine. 

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By employing the newest mining processes and technology, Wyloo said it will "minimize" the mine's carbon footprint and environmental impact while lowering energy consumption and improve efficiency of the operation.

In a May 31 news release, Wyloo said it's committing $25 million on feasibility studies to investigate the potential to locate a chemical plant in this province for the emerging battery market and look at the potential construction of a new ferrochrome plant. The latter facility makes a semi-finished product used to make stainless steel. Noront selected Sault Ste. Marie is its preferred location for a ferrochrome processing facility. 

Wyloo said it's prepared to award $100 million in contracts to First Nation businesses to support their participation in the economic benefits provided by the Ring of Fire development. In addition, Wyloo intends to assist those businesses with access to capital and other support to create further employment and development opportunities. 

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Wyloo proposes establishing a skills training and employment centre that "guarantees" employment for those who successfully completing their training.

Head of Wyloo Metals, Luca Giacovazzi, said the commitments reinforce Wyloo Metals’ belief in Canada’s long-term potential to be a globally relevant producer of reliable and responsibly sourced battery metals.

The company said it fully embraces the consensus of the global scientific community in the importance of decarbonization and supports the goal of the Paris Agreement in limiting global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius. At the same time, Wyloo believes Canada is a unique position to be global leader in sourcing reliably and responsibly mined and processed battery metals.

“These commitments, alongside our recent offer for Noront Resources, reflect Wyloo Metals’ strategy of long-term investment into Canada,” Giacovazzi said in a statement.

“Canada has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to establish itself as a major player in the new economy. Our proposed Future Metals Hub provides the cornerstone for a globally relevant battery material supply chain in Canada, while creating economic opportunities for local communities to thrive.”

According to Noront's project timelines, the Eagle's Nest is tentatively scheduled to go into production in 2026. The date was recently pushed back one year due to the delays in the start of the environmental assessments (EAs) on the community and industrial access roads into the Far North. Scheduled completion of the EAs are now set for the end of 2023, immediately followed by a 30- to 36-month construction period of the roads slated to start at the beginning of 2024.

After Eagle's Nest, four high-grade chromite deposits would come into development and production that would feed a proposed ferrochrome production facility for Sault Ste. Marie. Construction of the Blackbird chromite mine project would start in 2026.

Noront management isn't commenting on the content of Wyloo's proposal.

“While Wyloo indicated on May 25 that it intends to make an offer for Noront, a formal offer has not been received, only an expression of interest," said Noront president-CEO Alan Coutts in an email to Northern Ontario Business.

"Noront is therefore not in a position to respond to any statements from Wyloo regarding our assets. Should an offer be made, we will review it and respond in due course.”