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Sudbury delegation heads to Finland to tour ferrochrome smelter

With a Feb. 2 deadline looming for submissions, Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger is leading a delegation to Tornio, Finland, on Saturday to get a first-hand look at Outokumpu, an operating ferrochrome smelter.
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With a Feb. 2 deadline looming for submissions, Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger is leading a delegation to Tornio, Finland, on Saturday to get a first-hand look at Outokumpu, an operating ferrochrome smelter. (Supplied photos)

With a Feb. 2 deadline looming for submissions, Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger is leading a delegation to Tornio, Finland, on Saturday to get a first-hand look at Outokumpu, an operating ferrochrome smelter.

Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay are all in the running to be home to a similar smelter to process chromite when production begins in the Ring of Fire in Northwestern Ontario. Noront Resources, which owns a significant stake in the Ring of Fire, set the deadline as it makes long-term plans to begin processing chromite from the discovery.

Cliffs Resources announced a former mine site near Capreol as its preferred location for the smelter in 2012, but later sold its stake because of frustrations with the slow pace of development of the discovery.

Bigger said the Outokumpu ferrachrome smelter in Finland is the gold standard worldwide for processing chromite in an environmentally responsible way.

"The whole intent of the trip is to ensure that we have the strongest possible bid for the Noront Resources ferrochrome smelter,” Bigger said Thursday.  “The company has identified that (Outokumpu) would be a facility they would modelling from on the basis of best practices. So this is our opportunity to see it first-hand, to go with a team from Sudbury to ask the questions we need to support our bid, and to submit that bid by Feb. 2."

The Mayor’s delegation includes Wahnapitae First Nations Chief Ted Roque, Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre, who's also the chair of the Sudbury and District Health Unit, Greater Sudbury Development Corporation executive board member Paul  Kusnierczyk, economic development director Ian Wood, and Bigger's chief of staff, Melissa Zanette. 

"Taking Chief Roque along is an indication of the support we have with First Nations,” Bigger said in a news release. “We've met with Chief Steve Miller, as well. Chief Roque was available to travel at this time. But we have the support of our First Nations communities. It's very important that, in our community, we do show that support."

While the Capreol site was the preferred location in 2012, Bigger said they are “keeping their cards close to their chest” and not revealing where the city is proposing the smelter be located this time around.

“That's been the strategy that we've been taking,” he said. “However, as a team, we're very confident in our bid.

“A prudent thing to do is to go to the actual community,” Bigger continued, when asked why they decided to travel to Finland. “We'll be asking all the questions we need to ask on behalf of the citizens to ensure that we understand the relationship between the ferrochrome smelter, to understand they have been in place for 50 years, that the environmental standards in Finland are some of the best in the entire world.

"We also want to understand the relationship between the company and the municipality, the experiences that they've had over the years."

It will also give them an opportunity to learn some of the finer details of how it operates, something they can pass on to Sudburians should the city's bid be successful.

“And a large part of this is about ensuring that we have all the information we need to openly welcome Noront Resources and have the best ferrochrome processing facility possible with the best technologies developed in our city," he said.

“I am pleased to be joining Mayor Bigger and his delegation to Tornio, Finland,” Roque is quoted as saying in the news release. “Being engaged in this process from its initial stages of development showcases Greater Sudbury’s commitment to strengthening its relationships with First Nations. On behalf of Wahnapitae First Nations, we look forward to fostering these relationships as we continue to build a strong community.”

Greater Sudbury is home to the world’s largest integrated mining complex in the world, with eight operating mines, two mills, two smelters and a nickel refinery. If the bid is successful, Bigger said it could mean up to 400 direct and 1,200 indirect jobs for Sudbury.

"My sense is that our community would feel a significant loss if we are not selected as the preferred site for the ferrochrome facility,” he said, when asked if there was public support for building the smelter here. "That said, in working to ensure that we do become the preferred site that is selected by Noront Resources, the prudent thing for us to is to speak to municipal officials, speak to local public health officials, speak to the company representatives who are managing and monitoring the environmental aspects” of the smelter operation.

Finland and the European Union have worked closely with Outokumpu to develop innovative ways to create a facility that is environmentally responsible and sustainable. Bigger and his delegation will be meeting with these leaders to gain first-hand knowledge of these best practices, the release said.

The delegation is slated to return Thursday.