A junior mining company, Noront Resources has been working to devise a socially and environmentally responsible development plan for its properties in recent years. Simultaneously, from its McFaulds Lake Project in the James Bay lowlands of northern Ontario – in an area known as the Ring of Fire – Noront is pursuing the evolution of its base metal camp.
In August 2007, the company made a nickel, copper, platinum and palladium discovery at what is now known as its Eagle’s Nest deposit. Since that time, the company has invested $150 million into additional exploration in the area. In addition to discovering the reserve at Eagle’s Nest, the company has also discovered a chromite resource at Blackbird, additional nickel sulphide mineralization at Eagle Two and AT-12, and vanadium mineralization at Thunderbird.
“During the last three years, we have been focused on feasibility, environmental impact studies and community consultation,” COO Paul Semple says. “Right now, we are finishing up with permitting and applications, as well as looking at financing.”
Noront’s focus is on developing the Eagle’s Nest mine, as it owns a 100 percent interest in the development-stage nickel-copper-platinum group elements deposit. According to Semple, a major challenge for Eagle’s Nest is the development of the infrastructure.
“The Ring of Fire is a remote area in northwest Ontario, as the closest communities are 100 kilometers away,” he says. “They are small First Nations communities, and they don’t have road access. We are looking at infrastructure development of hundreds of kilometers of roads, and we’re looking to create roads that can be shared with the community.”
The plan is to develop Eagle’s Nest as an underground mine. The feasibility study has been done, and Noront believes it has a good understanding of what the project’s capital and operating costs will be.
Noront is hoping that it will be able to start preliminary construction this winter, aiming for mining operations to start by the summer of 2017. The goal is for the mine to produce high-grade nickel, generating revenues in the range of $400 million to $500 million per year.
“We project that this is one of the top-two undeveloped nickel sulphide deposits in the world,” Semple says. “Developing the mine will require significant investment upfront, about $600 million to build the mine. But it will have a long life potential, opportunities to increase the reserves and the possibility for significant cash flow, and it could have a positive impact on northern communities.”
Among the most critical aspects of moving forward with responsible development of Noront’s projects is engagement with local First Nations communities. In addition, the company is focused on establishing strong ties at all government levels. Noront believes it is crucial to consult with all relevant stakeholders throughout project development. This will help the company minimize its environmental impact and maximize the development’s benefits to local communities and the entire province.
“We’ve been working with the First Nations communities on education and training to maximize First Nation participation in the project,” Semple says. “We have found world-class deposits, but we need the infrastructure partnerships with government, industry and local communities.”
Semple says cooperating with First Nations communities is critical for an emerging developer such as Noront. It must see not only its own opportunities, but also opportunities to create business for the locals.
“We need to work with them so they understand what is involved in supporting businesses and making sure their people have the skills and training they need,” Semple says. “We will work with them early to help them identify and capitalize on the opportunities that will emerge during and after construction.”
Environmental stewardship is another priority.
“We are focused on conforming with regulations and we look at best practices around the world,” he says.