Canadian Mining Journal


COMMENT: Cliffs abandons Ring of Fire

Cliffs Natural Resources, the American miner that was so hot to gain control of chromite deposits in Ontario's Ring of Fire, is packing up and going home.

Cliffs Natural Resources, the American miner that was so hot to gain control of chromite deposits in Ontario’s Ring of Fire, is packing up and going home.

The news release is an understatement: “The technical project work including feasibility study, development and exploration activities are being halted and there is no restart date planned.”

In practical terms, Cliffs is closing its Toronto and Thunder Bay, ON, offices as well as the exploration camp. That leaves employees without an employer, although the company did offer to help find jobs elsewhere in the company for some of those affected.

Cliffs has had an uncomfortable relationship with local First Nations, provincial authorities and other explorers working in the Ring of Fire. Readers may wonder if the company had any understanding of how to deal co-operatively with First Nations or if it thought it could overlook their participation. The Ontario government has been in hot water for years for ignoring its obligations to facilitate consultation between aboriginals and explorers. Cliffs halted its environmental assessment of the site last May, saying in effect that the province and First Nations are too difficult to deal with.

The latest squabble is over the construction of a road or a railroad to transport concentrate to market. Cliffs favours the road option because it is cheaper to build. Neighbour KWG Resources, through whose claims such a road would run, favours a railroad. Despite a higher initial capital cost, a railway offers significant cost savings in maintenance over the decades the mines would operate.

There are many good reasons to mine in Canada and to entrench benefits for aboriginal communities. Cliffs could learn through the impact benefits accord process how to include local communities and give them lifelong skills. Cliffs could take the lead in negotiating with its neighbours, rather than decry the government for not stepping in and giving it what it wants. Cliffs could stop being penny wise and pound foolish about transportation.

In this week when the federal government introduced anti-bullying legislation, readers may have schoolyard disputes on the brain, but they can be forgiven if Cliffs’ actions remind them of a child picks up his ball and goes home when he can’t have his way.

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9 Comments » for COMMENT: Cliffs abandons Ring of Fire
  1. John Pursel says:

    Big, bad Yankee company could not get their way so they took their ball and left just as you wrote. Probably a very good thing has happened. Now get on with this and make it happen..

  2. A concerned citizen in the real north says:

    Maybe now something can be done with the Ontario government and the way they treat the true north. After all everyone knows that politicians do not care of anything north of the community of North Bay. To them it is all about votes and the electoral ballots which the majority of them are all south of North Bay.
    It is too bad that the true north faces all of these hardships when the Natural Resources are at our door steps. The loss of jobs in the Forestry sector with several mills closed and now because of the incompetent politicians and there lack of vision to the north, a possible partial fix for employment and growth in the north has come to a halt. It is time to wake up.

    The “Ring of Fire” is now nothing more than a “Puff of Smoke”.

    Instead of all of the bickering between Industry,First Nations and the Government, get together and work out something out. It would be a shame to see a development of this magnitude vanish.

  3. Jack de la Vergne says:

    This reporter’s attitude towards Americans is both rude and biased.
    But not to worry.
    Our mighty politicians are on the case.
    And Bob Rae is chief negotiator for the First Nations.
    Hallelujah! Another Windy Craggy.

  4. Charles Chartrand says:

    In a positive way, in 2010, I met the Senior Executive team during a job interview and that type of behavior from them does not surprised me.

  5. ItsMe says:

    Anyone who has had to negotiate with FN’s over a resource development would most certainly sympathize with them. Frustration, irrationality, no common sense and constant changing of positions is what is usually encountered. No wonder government wants industry to deal with it. Not fair all around.

  6. Rick Meyer says:

    Cliffs has a responsibility to its shareholders to invest in opportunities that will provide a reasonable and sustainable return.
    If that is more likely to happen for Cliffs in an other mining jurisdiction then so be it.
    It is not only Cliffs that can learn a lesson from this situation and lost opportunity…

  7. Ronald Bradshaw says:

    Myself and many other knowledgeable mining people have predicted for some time that the Ring of Fire project will never happen under the present day regime, rules and regulations. Mineral explorers and miners cannot and should not be required to negotiate with multiple aboriginal tribes. This is not a third world country. The federal and provincial governments set the laws and rules and therefore have the responsibility for negotiations and settlements if required.

  8. Wisemen says:

    Well now what happens Cliff’s buying of Spider Resources.. Is KWG or some other a likely suitor for the Spider assets…. And what about Cliff’s wanting an easement over KWG’S Land package.. Did Cliffs not originally want a railroad and even had their own engineering firm lined up for the task.

    I strongly have the opinion that others will soon want to take the Cliff’s seat at the table… Now do I hear KWG saying ” CHECKMATE ”

  9. Rockchips says:

    The author obviously has never had to try to negotiate the permitting process for exploration and mining projects in Ontario.

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