Noront starts community consultations as it plans for $1 billion Sault. Ste. Marie ferrochrome project

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By Robin MacLellan

Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Noront Resources Ltd. has started community consultations about in Sault Ste. Marie, the future site of its billion-dollar Ferrochrome Production Facility (FPF). Hundreds of residents attended the company’s five-hour open house in October to hear the plan and ask questions about the facility and its potential impact on the community.

Alan Coutts, Noront’s president and chief executive officer said he was not surprised by the high turnout.

“There’s a lot of questions. Some we can answer now. Some we need to do more work to answer. Some we never anticipated. But that’s all part of the process.”

Prior to the first consultation, the City of Sault Ste. Marie released a statement aimed at residents who are concerned about the development.

“Moving forward, it is important to recognize the following:

  • The project is subject to rigorous provincial and federal assessments and permitting processes;
  • These processes will be lengthy and provide an opportunity for community input;
  • The city has made it clear to Noront that they will not support the construction of an FPF on Algoma’s property if the city believes or has reason to believe that the operation will have an adverse effect on people’s health or if the city is not satisfied that the facility can operate safely.”

Noront Resources, a Canadian-based mining firm, is planning to build a plant that would produce ferrochrome – a key ingredient in stainless steel. The company is planning to mine its vast resource of chromite in the Ring of Fire in Northwestern Ontario and build a Ferrochrome Production Facility (FPF) – an expandable smelting facility that receives ore/concentrate from our Ring of Fire chromite mines and produces ferrochrome for the stainless-steel market.

The Sault site is located on industrial land, west of the Algoma Steel Plant, providing access to the Great Lakes and the ability to procure services from a strong industrial partner. The Algoma site is ideal for repurposing an existing site for the establishment of a modern, state-of-the-art ferrochrome facility. The proximity to markets and the lower operating cost tipped the scales in favour of Sault Ste. Marie.

“Sault Ste. Marie was selected based on its environmental and site suitability, capital and operating costs and an assessment of community acceptance for hosting the facility,” Coutts said in a statement when the location was announced in May.

The following requirements factored into the location decision:

  • Proximity to suitable electrical infrastructure and robustness of electrical grid to support over 300 MW of demand including electric furnaces
  • Proximity to main rail and natural gas lines
  • Effective road infrastructure and access
  • Cost effective transportation costs to the location, both from mine and from the sources of the major consumables, especially anthracite
  • Proximity to markets and low transportation costs to the main ferrochrome customers
  • Availability of a trained and experienced workforce to staff the operation
  • A demonstrated level of community support

The development of the FPF plan leading to construction is expected to occur over a seven-year. It will take a substantial effort to engineer, consult with the community and complete the very significant environmental assessment required to build the FPF.

Once operational, the FPF is expected to employ between 300 and 500 people, along with more than 1,000 indirectly through suppliers and other businesses.

Next steps include environmental and feasibility assessments, along with continued community consultation before project design and technical approvals are completed and tenders are issued for construction.

It is expected that construction of the FPF will begin in mid-2025 and will last about three years, at an estimated cost of $1 billion. The timeline is dependent on the development of road infrastructure to the Ring of Fire.

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