Cliffs suspends Ring of Fire chromite project in northern Ontario

TORONTO – A major U.S. player in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire says it’s indefinitely suspending its chromite project in the mineral-rich area.

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. says its affiliate, Cliffs Chromite Ontario Inc., will not allocate additional capital for the project.

Cliffs cites the uncertain timeline and risks associated with the development of necessary infrastructure to bring the project online for the suspension.

In June of this year, Cliffs suspended environmental assessment activities because of issues impeding the progress of the project.

Cliffs said Wednesday in a release that technical project work, including feasibility study, development and exploration activities, are being halted and there is no restart date planned.

Cliffs says it will continue to work with the Ontario government, First Nations communities and other interested parties to explore potential solutions related to the issue of infrastructure for the Ring of Fire region.

“We continue to believe in the value of the mineral deposits and the potential of the Ring of Fire region for northern Ontario,” Cliffs said.

“Unfortunately, we will reduce the project team staffing and close our Thunder Bay (Ontario) and Toronto offices as well as the exploration camp site,” said Bill Boor, Cliffs’ senior vice president of strategy and business development.

Ontario’s minister of northern development and mines said he’s disappointed with Cliffs’ decision, but said the province will continue to work to develop the Ring of Fire.

“Our government is committed to smart, sustainable, and collaborative development in the Ring of Fire and this development is about more than one company,” Michael Gravelle said in a release.

“It is a multi-generational economic opportunity for this province with known mineral potential worth $60 billion and represents one of the largest known deposits in the world,” Gravelle said.

He said Ontario is prepared to invest in vital infrastructure and create the right climate to support development in the region.

Earlier this month, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne called on the federal government to be prepared to help develop the Ring of Fire.

The capital investment for industrial infrastructure is expected to be up to $1 billion, plus another $1.25 billion to construct all-season access roads to the remote region 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

At the same time, the province announced it was creating a new development corporation for the Ring of Fire to bring together private and public partners, including First Nations, mining companies and both levels of government.

The Ontario government has faced lawsuits from companies that can’t reach agreements with First Nations in the area.