Cliffs Natural Resources has had a continuous presence in Capreol, where it plans to build a ferrochrome processing facility, said Sudbury Ward 7 councillor Dave Kilgour.
“Cliffs is in town almost all the time,” Kilgour said. “They're moving forward and they're spending money every day.”
On Friday, Nov. 15, Kilgour joined NDP MPs Glenn Thibeault and Claude Gravelle, and MPP France Gelina, on a tour of the site for the proposed smelter.
Gravelle said the site, located near the old Moose Mountain Mine, was remote. No infrastructure had yet been built, he said, but representatives from Cliffs showed him plans for the plant.
“They did seem very confident the project is going to move forward,” Gravelle said.
Conservative MPP and finance critic Vic Fedeli also visited the proposed Cliffs site in Capreol on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
"I can see why both Cliffs and the City of Greater Sudbury are excited for this project," Fedeli said.
He said a rail line already runs next to the property, but Cliffs would need to spend billions of dollars to prepare the site for a processing facility. "They would need to build a massive rail yard," he said. "They would need a spur line up to the facility. We're talking several billion dollars."
But Fedeli said he was concerned about the project's future. "It's very unfortunate that five years have gone by without any chromite coming out of the Ring of Fire," he said.
Jennifer Mihalcin, a Cliffs spokesperson, said in an email that there are still a number of unresolved issues concerning the project.
On June 13, 2013, Cliffs announced it was temporarily suspending environmental assessment activities for the project due to four unresolved issues.
Mihalcin said the unresolved issues include: delayed approval of the terms of reference for the provincial environmental assessment process; uncertainty regarding the federal environmental assessment process due to the judicial challenge by a number of the impacted First Nations; unresolved land surface rights issues following a February 2013 Mining and Land Commissioner hearing; and unfinished agreements with the government of Ontario that are critical to the project’s economic viability.
While Cliffs says it has temporarily suspended its environmental assessment activities, the company has continued to work on a feasibility study for the project.
Earlier this year an Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner's decision denied Cliffs road access to its Ring of Fire chromite property.
“We're not hanging it up right now but this (decision) is a possible showstopper,” Bill Boor, Cliffs' senior vice-president of global ferroalloys, told Northern Ontario Business.
Since Cliffs announced in 2009 that it was a player in the Ring, the company has spent $485 million through to the end of 2012. This year's project budget is pegged at $50 million.