Like joining a neighbourhood, says Boor
By Carol Mulligan, Sudbury Star
Friday, November 9, 2012 6:36:47 EST AM
Bill Boor, senior vice-president of Cliffs Global Ferroalloys, speaks to an audience at the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Holiday Inn in Sudbury, ON. on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. JOHN LAPPA/THE SUDBURY STAR/QMI AGENCY
Bill Boor felt as if he were among friends Tuesday at a sold-out luncheon of 330 people organized by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce.
For Cliffs Natural Resources' senior vice-president of global ferroalloys, it was like coming home in a sense.
That's how Boor felt May 9 after delivering the news to investors in Toronto that Cliffs had selected the former Moose Mountain Mine site north of Capreol for its $1.8-billion ferrochrome processing plant.
"We made a lot more people unhappy that day than we made happy," Boor told the lunch-time crowd.
It was a long day, but Boor and other company officials opted to come to Sudbury for a late-afternoon reception with the city's movers and shakers.
"It was the best thing we ever decided," Boor told the chamber crowd. "It honestly felt like when you have a very long day at work and you go home."
In Sudbury this week, Boor met with Mayor Matichuk, Nickel Belt New Democrat MPP France Gelinas and Nickel Belt New Democrat MP Claude Gravelle. All three attended the luncheon, sitting at the same table as Boor.
Boor's talk was billed as "Building a World-Class Chrome Business." In it, he presented an overview and update of the chromite mine at McFaulds Lake in Northwestern Ontario and of the ferrochrome processing facility planned near Capreol.
Cleveland-based Cliffs has a 165-year history of launching projects with the intent to stay. "It's like joining a neighbourhood," said Boor.
That neighbourhood happens to have a "hole" in the supply of chromite and ferrochrome.
There are no chromite mines or ferrochrome production facilities in North America, but there are stainless steel producers now buying ferrochrome from South Africa.
Cliffs is looking to fill that gap.
Whether that will start in late 2016 or later isn't clear, as the planets will have to align for the mine and the processing plant to be operating by that time, Boor indicated.
That hasn't stopped 1,629 people from applying for jobs on Cliffs' website, 962 for furnace jobs in Capreol. That confirms what Cliffs knew when it selected Sudbury for the plant.
"What Sudbury represented to us ... is an area that's got a tradition of mining and understands mineral processing, and what comes with that is an available workforce," said Boor.
He reviewed statistics showing the size and scope of the project comprised of four components -- the mine and concentrator at McFaulds Lake, the transloader facility near Greenstone and the CN Rail line, and the plant in Capreol.
About 40 million tons of material will be mined annually -- ore with a 20-40% chromite content, 40 tons of which will be concentrated to about 43%, with 2.3 tons leaving the site as concentrate.
About 100 70-ton trucks a day will travel what Cliffs hopes will be an all-weather road from the mine site to Greenstone.
About 1.2 million tons of concentrate will be sent to Capreol to the furnace, which will produce 560,000 tons of ferrochrome for sale.
Another 1.1 million tons of concentrate will be shipped to world markets for processing.
Boor explained it requires that "mix" to make the project viable, acknowledging shipping concentrate out of province has been "the subject of discussion."
When development of the Black Thor deposit at McFaulds Lake was conceived, producing 560,000 tons of ferrochrome, it "seemed like about as much as we could commit to," Boor said.
When it became apparent how much it was going to cost to develop infrastructure, it became important to increase the size of the mine and sell the concentrate to market to complement ferrochrome production.
That's how Cliffs arrived at the "two-product approach."
Cliffs could well find itself in a position of adding more furnaces in Capreol and convert more concentrate. "We're ready to do that because we've got that product to ship out. So it's very important to us to have that flexibility," Boor said.
Initially, Cliffs won't be a big user of electricity in the Ring, starting with diesel or compressed natural gas generators.
With First Nations and other mines in the area, there will be an increased need for electricity so "you start to get to a point where you can justify getting grid power into that area," he said.
The social benefits of reducing the cost of power to First Nations is an important aspect of the development, said Boor. "It's one we care about."
There are many hurdles to clear for Cliffs to be in chromite production in four years. Boor cautioned the audience that development will proceed in phases.
"Nothing stops early development of a new mining district quite like trying to accomplish everything right with the first step," said Boor.
"The desire to perfect and complete everything with one step can get in the way of just recognizing these things do develop over time. This is a phased development."
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