Noront Resources Ltd. (Noront) is a Canadian-based mining development firm that has the largest land position in the Ring of Fire, an emerging multi-metals area located in the James Bay lowlands. Noront has controlling interest in all the major discoveries in the Ring of Fire and owns over 85% of all the claims. The Ring of Fire has current discoveries containing world-class deposits of nickel and chromite.
Ferrochrome is used to produce stainless steel products. It’s created using high-grade oxide chromite ore and process inputs such as coal, limestone and silica. The ferrochrome processing facility will grind the ore, melt it, and put it through a process that adds carbon to separate the oxygen from the iron and chrome. The completed product is called ferrochrome, which is a primary ingredient to produce stainless steel.
Key factors that led to Noront’s decision included: the city’s availability of a brownfield site that has available infrastructure and a strategic location on the U.S. border, community infrastructure, available power supply, knowledgeable workforce, and industrial heritage. These items, along with a solid partner in Algoma Steel and attractive operating and capital costs, resulted Noront’s decision to select Sault Ste. Marie.
The FPF will be located on the Algoma Steel property.
The project has the potential to create a significant number of jobs for the long-term operation in Sault Ste. Marie (300-500 direct jobs). In addition, jobs will be created during the initial engineering/design phase and construction phase of the $1-billion+B ferrochrome processing facility.
Depending on the Provincial decision on the road infrastructure to the Ring of Fire, Noront expects that it will begin the work on engineering, environmental assessment and approvals and concurrently will start the community consultation process. This work will lead to construction of the FPF in mid-2025 (at the earliest), and it will take approximately three years to build.
The development of the Ring of Fire mining projects and the FPF are dependent on the lead development of the regional infrastructure into the site and local communities. The critical component of this infrastructure is the North-South road from the Nakina area, north of Thunder Bay to the Ring of Fire. This development has been a prominent element of the economic development of Ontario since 2012 and, in 2014, the Ontario government announced a $1-billion commitment to this development.
This development was a prominent element during the 2018 provincial election and a key commitment of the newly-elected government. It is expected a renewed commitment to the development will be made by the current government by mid-2019. If this commitment is made, it will be approximately a two-year process to complete engineering and environmental assessments followed by three years of construction for both the road and Noront mining facilities.
The FPF will employ between 300 and 500 people directly, along with more than 1,000 indirectly through suppliers and other businesses. These are well paying, highly technical roles utilizing the significant resources available in Sault Ste. Marie.
Noront will be hiring people for pre‐development activities (environmental studies, site design studies, etc.), construction and operations. Peak labour requirement will be during construction, but longer-term employment should benefit the community most. Most positions during construction will be contracted. However, Noront will want to use the construction period to prepare staff for operating the facility, so some construction roles will transition into operations. The company will require operating and maintenance personnel, including management, supervision, operators, support labour, technical staff (instrumentation technicians, laboratory technicians) and shop, service and site maintenance crews, and other typical operations personnel.
The site will be a metallurgical, heavy industrial facility, requiring many roles to be filled by experienced operators, maintenance and technical personnel. Most of the roles will require regular industrial skills, like electricians, plumbers, welders, mechanical and instrument technicians, site maintenance people, and site equipment operators. Some of these requirements may be filled by contracted services.
The chromite resource base located in the Ring of Fire is significant and expected to last well over 50 years. Current defined resources at the first-stage production level would last more than 250 years. It is expected that this plant will be in operation for the same duration with significant expansion potential.
Noront has had an introductory meeting with Chief Sayers of Batchewana First Nation and Chief Syrette of Garden River First Nation. The submission from Sault Ste. Marie included letters of support from Batchewana First Nation, Garden River First Nation and Missanabie Cree First Nation. Noront outlined the importance of meaningful First Nation consultation and involvement, and the company is committed to engaging in meaningful First Nation consultation.
The FPF waste products are primarily greenhouse gases, dust and slag. Noront will undertake work to evaluate the slag by-products for appropriate re-use in other commercial applications. Slag products are an inert material and used for construction in many other jurisdictions. The state-of-the-art design of the plant will mitigate and minimize emissions of greenhouse gases and the potential production of dust. The latest cutting-edge facilities in other jurisdictions have no significant emissions or impacts.
Noront is committed to the design and operation of the FPF to have minimal environmental impact. To ensure this, the siting and design of some new industrial facilities are subject to an environmental assessment study and approval. Following the completion and approval of the assessment process, project design is completed, and further technical approvals are sought, leading to construction of the facility.
Noront will develop its environmental assessment study to reflect its project specifics. The key steps of the process:
- A description of the proposed project;
- A description of the existing environmental conditions;
- Consideration of project alternatives, including their advantages and disadvantages;
- Identification of potential environmental impacts;
- Development of mitigation measures to avoid or reduce environmental impacts;
- Recommendations for follow-up monitoring;
- Consultation with Indigenous communities, public, city and agencies, during the study;
- Development of an environmental assessment report that documents the above; and
- Review of the environmental assessment report by government agencies and their approval or refusal decision.
Some of the topics in the environmental assessment process are:
- Meteorology and air quality;
- Noise, vibration and light;
- Geology, hydrology and geochemistry;
- Terrestrial vegetation, wildlife and soil;
- Aquatic environment, water and sediment quality; and
- Human impacts.
Environmental technical specialists:
- Undertake background studies and field investigations of existing environmental conditions;
- Identify sensitivities and constraints to be addressed in the development and assessment of alternatives;
- Identify and assess potential impacts;
- Participate in the development of mitigation for those impacts; and
- Prepare technical documentation of the above.
Study consultation is expected to involve the following:
- Indigenous communities;
- General public;
- The host municipality; and
- Regulatory agencies.
Consultation is undertaken during the environmental assessment study to:
- Provide and receive project information;
- Receive input and concerns from interested stakeholders; and
- Provide the basis for the study team to provide responses to such input and concerns.
The consultation process continues throughout the environmental assessment and provides the opportunities for feedback on all of the components of the assessment. Key steps in the consultation process are:
- Public notices to announce study commencement;
- Release of technical reports for information and review;
- Open houses and presentations at project milestones to provide and receive information and to discuss any project-related concerns;
- Submission of the environmental assessment report documenting the study to the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, along with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, for review;
- Public notices to announce the report submission and the opportunity for public review and comment; and
- Government approval or refusal decision after comments are received from stakeholders and adequately addressed.
Public consultation does not end with an approval decision from the federal and provincial governments. It continues during the next stages of project design and processing of associated technical approvals.
The duration of the environmental assessment process and approval varies with the nature of the industrial facility, project complexity and site specifics. However, it typically takes several years. If environmental assessment approval is granted, the project proceeds to a more detailed level of design and permitting, which can also take several years.
The FPF is not expected to have a negative impact on the tourism industry. The proposed location for the facility is already zoned for heavy industrial, and the development must undergo a rigorous environmental approval process prior to moving forward.
The submission made by the local project team to Noront outlined programs and opportunities that can be considered, relied upon or applied to for support. The company, working with the City of Sault Ste. Marie and project team, is open to further discussion and consideration of opportunities and incentives and/or support as needed.
Power infrastructure will need to be constructed to facilitate the operation of the FPF. The project team has engaged PUC Services and a local electrical engineering firm to assess power needs, stability and the ability to satisfy the potential energy needs of the FPF. At this stage, the project team does not believe that the local energy supply or infrastructure will be negatively impacted. In fact, within the region, there is an excess supply of renewable energy that would be beneficial to utilize in a facility such as this.