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Latest on the ferrochrome smelter bid

Decision expected sometime in the spring, early summer
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STOCK PHOTO: Raw chrome nugget

Sault Ste. Marie's bid team pursuing a Ring of Fire-related ferrochrome smelter will meet this week with officials of Algoma Steel to consider possible locations on steel mill property.

"We're having ongoing dialogue with them this week to continue looking at the plant and the requirements for that plant," team lead Dan Hollingsworth told a meeting today of Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp.'s board.

Preliminary talks with Algoma executives were held two weeks ago.

"This will be our first in-depth meeting with them this coming week to really go through some of that detail," said Hollingsworth, one of four members of the bid team along with Tom Vair and Al Horsman from the city and the EDC's Nevin Buconjic. 

The group meets every Monday afternoon to review progress on the city's latest submission to NorOnt Resources Ltd., which has shortlisted the Sault as one of four possible locations for its ferrochrome processing facility.

The submission is due Feb. 2.

"We've seen a lot of positive feedback and we're getting encouraged that things are tracking quite well for getting a business case put together," Hollingsworth said today.

"We are meeting with the mayor, the MP and the MPP this week to have some dialogue with respect to a status update on the project."

"Community engagement will be critical to this project. There has been some recent publicity around that piece. Really, we're at the stage of gathering information. Once we have more information available on the project, we will be having some input sessions. There's an opportunity for us to collaborate with the business community and identify supply chain, identify companies that can service the NorOnt project."

"One of the key advantages that the Sault has is we have a strong industrial history. A lot of the companies that provide services to the steel mill will be similar companies that provide services to NorOnt's needs."

If NorOnt chooses Sault Ste. Marie as a feasible site, that would kick off a comprehensive consultation process based on environmental assessment requirements, Hollingsworth said.

Local indigenous communities will be involved in that process.

"A whole bunch of work has to be done over the next 60 days. We've kept the dialogue open with NorOnt over the last year. We try to meet with them at least monthly. I will be speaking to them this week as well."

"We're expecting that their decision on where they plan on locating the ferrochrome processing facility will be sometime in the spring, early summer."

Concern was expressed today about emerging opposition to the project.

Hollingsworth said the bid team is meeting with local Chamber of Commerce members and trade union representatives, collecting information and support to answer detractors.

"As we get more information, we'll be putting out some communication around what the EDC is working on," he said.