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Ferrochrome smelter opportunity gleams in eyes of Sault councillors

'We went from not being in consideration to being at the top of the consideration' - Mayor Christian Provenzano on proposed ferrochrome smelter
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AlanCoutts
Alan Coutts, president and CEO of NorOnt Resources, was in the Sault earlier this month to explain his company's plans for the Ring of Fire, and possible spin-off benefits for Sault Ste. Marie. David Helwig/SooToday

Sault Ste. Marie City Council gave a unanimous vote of initial support Monday night for plans by NorOnt Resources Ltd. to build a ferrochrome smelter in Northern Ontario.

"We went from not being in consideration to being at the top of the consideration," said Mayor Christian Provenzano.

"This one could be a game-changer. It's absolutely massive in potential," said Ward 1 councillor Steve Butland.

"Sault Ste. Marie is grateful that NorOnt is considering it as a potential location for the ferrochrome plant," said the resolution placed on the council agenda by Butland and Ward 3 councillor Matthew Shoemaker.

The city "looks forward to working with NorOnt to ensure that Sault Ste. Marie is their location of choice for their smelter," the resolution added.

NorOnt Resources is the biggest player in the Ring of Fire, an emerging multi-metals mining venture proposed for the James Bay Lowlands.

The company's properties are rich in chromite and it's planning to built a ferrochrome smelter somewhere in Northern Ontario.

Sault Ste. Marie is currently one of four sites under consideration.

NorOnt officials were in the Sault on May 10 to explain the project to local business leaders.

"Sudbury and Timmins probably have an edge in mining background," Butland told Monday night's CIty Council meeting. "Sault Ste. Marie - our location is just the best of all four, for this particular project."

Massive amounts of electricity are needed to smelt chromite and Butland said that a NorOnt official advised him that Sault Ste. Marie has electrical infrastructure that none of the other contending cities can offer.

"This represents a significant opportunity for our municipality if it comes to fruition," said Councillor Shoemaker.

"If there is anything that our council can do to facilitate that search process, I know that we would endorse it whole-heartedly, because.... this is economic diversification, as clear as it gets," Shoemaker said.

Mayor Provenzano said that NorOnt officials need a road built to the remote Ring of Fire property.

"You won't see any significant plans or investments move ahead until that road is essentially committed to and established. There are some political issues that relate to that," the mayor said.

The following is the full text of the resolution passed unanimously by Sault Ste. Marie City Council:

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NorOnt Resources visit

Mover: Councillor M. Shoemaker
Seconder: Councillor S. Butland

Whereas on May 10, 2017, executives from NorOnt Resources were in Sault Ste. Marie to discuss development of the Ring of Fire mineral deposits and their desire to build a smelter in Northern Ontario; and
 
Whereas Sault Ste. Marie is grateful that NorOnt is considering it as a potential location for the ferrochrome plant; and
 
Whereas the council of the City of Sault Ste. Marie thanks the Economic Development Corporation for their pursuit of this project;
 
Now therefore be it resolved that the council of the City of Sault Ste. Marie thanks NorOnt Resources for their interest in our community;
 
Further be it resolved that the Council of the City of Sault Ste. Marie looks forward to working with NorOnt to ensure that Sault Ste. Marie is their location of choice for their smelter.
 
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