Mayor not surprised Quebec trying to horn in on Ring of Fire smelter
Laughren says Ontario needs to act on lowering electricity rates
By Len Gillis / email@example.com
Posted 58 minutes agoTimmins Mayor Tom Laughren said it is realistic to expect neighbouring provinces to try to horn in on Northern Ontario's Ring Of Fire chromite mining prospect.
Laughren was commenting earlier this week on news that Rouyn-Noranda, home of Xstrata's Horne Smelter, was actively lobbying to have that Northwestern Quebec city become the site of a new ferrochrome smelter.
At least three major mining companies, Cliffs Resources, NorOnt Resources and KWG Resources, have staked thousands of claims in the area and have plans to mine the lucrative chromite sometime in the next five to ten years. It would be the only major chromite orebody in North America.
It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and operate and numerous Northern Ontario communities are hoping to reap some of those financial rewards.
Laughren said he continues to worry that Ontario's electrical energy rates, up to 40 per cent higher than those in Quebec, will force investors to look outside Ontario to build a smelter.
"From a Timmins or Northern Ontario perspective we know if we do not so something with energy rates, the ring of fire, as far as production is concerned, will look elsewhere," Laughren suggested.
"I wouldn't want to speculate on where they could go in Rouyn Noranda. My fear, or my hope is that they would not be looking at an existing facility there," said the mayor.
"I would suspect Manitoba would be very interested in a ferrochrome plant as well, because of their cheap power," he added.
Laughren added there is nothing to stop the chromite producers from putting their ore concentrates on a train to the west coast and then shipping it a smelter overseas. But he said he is hoping a solution can be found to have the smelter in Northeastern Ontario.
Laughren said the Ontario government now has to find ways to ensure that happens.
"Quebec and Manitoba are competitive. We know that from an Ontario perspective right now we know we are not competitive when it comes to the energy needs and I think Cliffs Resources laid that out very clearly when they talked about the communities they'd be willing to look at. The big question mark is none of them (Ontario communities) can be competitive if the Ontario government doesn't do something with the energy rates," said Laughren.
"I think the other thing to look at is the transportation," said the Mayor.
"I mean I would hope that Ontario would not be putting money into infrastructure for shipment of this ore that would not be produced in Ontario. And specifically Northern Ontario, that we would be looking at taking that to other jurisdictions."