Ward 7 Coun. Dave Kilgour, whose ward includes Capreol, says the company’s original schedule, which would see the mine open in three years, was “very aggressive.”
“To open a typical mine, if you ask most mine people, takes seven to 10 years, by the time you get through all the criteria and all the environmental checks,” Kilgour said.
“They announced it in May, so if they were to open in 2015, that would be a three-year turnaround. That’s very, very quick. And there’s no sense in having the mine open until the refinery’s built. Then you would have nothing you could do with the ore.”
Cliffs announced recently it is pushing back the start of production at its Ring of Fire chromite deposit in the James Bay lowlands in northwestern Ontario by one year. In its latest investor presentation, the Ohio miner said Black Thor will begin production in 2016.
“The final decision on the furnace location (in Sudbury) took Cliffs longer than originally planned,” said spokeswoman Pat Persico, by email to Northern Ontario Business. “This was due to the necessary discussions held with the Province of Ontario regarding power and road.
“As these are very important decisions driving the long-term project, Cliffs is focused on making the best choices and adjusting schedules accordingly.”
First Nations concerns about the project’s impact on the environment and the lack of consultation were not a factor in adjusting the development timeline, Persico said.
Kilgour said it’s essential First Nations in the area truly benefit from the mine.
“When it really comes down to it, it would be a real travesty and a real shame if this opportunity wasn’t taken by the federal and provincial governments to ensure that the Aboriginal population gain a lot of benefit from this,” he said. “And I’m not talking cash outlay.”
As an example, he cited members of the Wahnapitae First Nation outside of Capreol, in the way they’ve developed economically by working with different mining companies in the area, for example by doing environmental testing for them.
“It’s really brought them along,” he said. “And I think it’s an opportunity for a lot of these Aboriginal communities to really move their entire community forward.”
As the mine and smelter get closer to becoming a reality, Kilgour said some infrastructure improvements will be necessary to accommodate the 500 or so people expected to be employed building and working at the smelter.
“We know there are things that have to be done on the roadway out there,” he said. “But we’re very pleased that all the ore is going to be hauled by rail. So that takes a real load off of ensuring that the highway out there is in super shape.”
Some improvements are needed, Kilgour said, citing one-lane bridges in the area that may need to be expanded to handle more traffic.
“I don’t think it’s anything that needs to be done tomorrow or next year, but with the increase in traffic, (the bridges) should be upgraded,” he said.
And longer term, Sudbury Transit may also want to consider establishing a bus run to the smelter.
“You’re probably talking 100 people working there a shift,” Kilgour said. “That’s a lot of cars. If they started a transit route in Sudbury somewhere, had it go through Garson or the Valley somewhere, and had it coincide with the start of shifts, that would be of great benefit to the mine. I think those things could be looked at. But you need to plan for it.”
And as for the road leading to the smelter, Kilgour said it’s old but not in bad shape.
“For a road that’s 60 years old, the base is extremely stable. So it’s just a matter of repaving.”