by Staff Writers
Alberta, Ontario (UPI) Nov 22, 2013
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. says it has suspended plans for a $3.3 billion chromite mining project in Canada.
The company, based in Cleveland, mines iron ore and metallurgical coal in North America and Australia. It said in a statement this week it would not allocate more capital to the chromite project in northern Ontario's mineral-rich Ring of Fire region "given the uncertain timeline and risks associated with the development of necessary infrastructure to bring this project online."
Chromite is used to make stainless steel.
Cliff's decision comes amid volatile prices for many commodities and decreased demand from China.
"We continue to believe in the value of the mineral deposits and the potential of the Ring of Fire region for Northern Ontario,"said Bill Boor, Cliffs senior vice president, strategy and business development.
The remote area is believed to contain $60 billion worth of minerals.
Ontario acknowledged the limitations due to lack of infrastructure.
"We recognize that government is going to have to partner with the enterprises that are interested in developing the Ring of Fire, and we understand there will have to be collaboration on infrastructure development," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday, The Globe and Mail reports.
"We're absolutely clear on that," Wynne said. "It's about a huge opportunity."
Wynne's government had announced two weeks ago a new development corporation would build $2.25 billion worth of infrastructure in the region.
The announcement was made before specific plans were formulated and the government didn't commit the money to fully fund it, says The Globe and Mail reported.
"Without land surface rights, without infrastructure certainty, without the (environmental assessment) process terms of reference being approved ... we can't continue to spend at the levels we're been spending," Pat Persico, a spokeswoman for Cliffs, told the newspaper.
H. Fraser Phillips at RBC Capital Markets, the corporate and investment banking arm of the Royal Bank of Canada, said Cliffs' project would have taken years to develop "if it could ultimately be developed at all," the Financial Post reports.
Based on estimates from Cliffs' July 2012 investor day, the chromite project required ferrochrome prices of $1.40 per pound to produce an internal rate of return between 14 percent and 17 percent.
With prices currently around $1, Phillips said the project's economics were "questionable at best."
As a result of its decision to scrap the chromite project, Cliffs can now focus on allocating its capital and resources to its core iron ore assets such as the Bloom Lake mine in Quebec, he added.
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