Cliffs to advance Ontario chromite project

Wed May 9, 2012 12:47pm EDT
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By Julie Gordon

TORONTO (Reuters) - Cliffs Natural Resources Inc said on Wednesday that its board approved plans to conduct a feasibility study for its proposed $3.3 billion chromite project in the Ring of Fire region of Northern Ontario.

The Cleveland-based miner also announced plans to build a ferrochrome processing facility in Sudbury, a nickel mining hub that is home to major Xstrata Plc and Vale Sa operations.

Morningstar analyst Daniel Rohr said the project would make Cliffs one of the largest chromite producers in the world. The company estimates it will produce of some 600,000 tons of ferrochrome a year and 1 million tons of chromite concentrate for export.

South Africa, Kazakhstan and India are top global producers of the metal, a key ingredient in stainless steel.

Cliffs did not say when it expects to complete the feasibility study, but said it expects the majority of capital spending for the project to occur in 2014 and 2015. Its stock was slightly higher at $56.96 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company will not make a final decision until it has both environmental approvals and agreements with aboriginal groups.

The mine has the potential to open up the Ring of Fire, a remote swath of mineral-rich land some 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) northwest of Toronto, to development. Numerous small mining companies are exploring metal deposits in the region.

"Ontario is very committed to ensuring this development and recognizes it will be opening up that part of Ontario to future development and opportunities," the province's Ring of Fire coordinator Christine Kaszycki told Reuters.   Continued...