NEW YORK Cliffs Natural
Resources Inc. has no clear timeline on when the permitting
process for its Black Thor ferrochrome project in northern
Ontario will resume following a change in local government, but
the company still sees enthusiasm from all involved parties to
develop the mammoth project.
"We dont have a schedule
for when other people are going to get back in the boat and row
with us," William C. Boor, senior vice president of global
ferroalloys for the Cleveland-based company, told AMM,
but the most recently announced start-up date of 2016 (
amm.com, Sept. 28) likely was not feasible.
The company "would love to have
gotten a deal done before the change (in government) took
place," but Cliffs is currently in the midst of familiarizing
the new administrationwhich so far has shown
enthusiasmwith the project, Boor said.
Michael Gravelle, Ontarios
Minister of Northern Development and Mines, told AMM
recently that although the government is in a transition
period, it is committed to "seeing mineral development in the
Ring of Fire" (
amm.com, April 26).
Cliffs still expects to complete
an internal study on the project by the end of this year, but
the permitting timeline remains dependent on negotiations with
the government and First Nations groups in the area.
"Well be patient and
well do it the right way. Our interest is to develop, own
and operate this mine for decades. We want the relationships to
be solid," Boor said, adding that the permitting process has
been more challenging than expected. "The fact that the parties
want it so much made me think we would achieve alignment
The company still firmly
believes in Black Thors potential as a top global
producer of ferrochrome. "We still are convinced well be
a best-quartile cost producer," Boor said.
The mine is expected to yield
about 1.1 million tonnes of chrome ore and 560,000 tonnes of
high-carbon ferrochrome annually, with production costs
expected to be around $200 per tonne for chrome ore and 70
cents per pound for ferrochrome, according to a company
High-carbon ferrochrome in the
domestic market is currently trading at between $1 and $1.03
Cliffs expects ferrochrome
prices to rise as production costs in South Africa, the
worlds largest producer, continue to trend upward due to
higher power and labor costs. "We expect the longer-term (and)
even the mid-term pricing to be a lot higher than it is right
now," Boor said.
Once permitting is complete,
construction of Black Thor likely will take between two and
two-and-a-half years, Boor said.