The wait is over for two northern Ontario cities competing  for a big economic opportunity.

Noront Resources has been waiting on word from the province on vital infrastructure for the Ring of Fire development to make the final decision on where to build the new $1 billion ferrochrome smelter that will process chromite from the James Bay lowlands in northern Ontario. Ferrochrome is a key ingredient in stainless steel.

The choice for the smelter location was narrowed down to Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins, and now, officials with the Canadian-based mining company have chosen the Soo.

Noront President and Chief Executive Officer Al Coutts delivered the decision in Sault Ste. Marie at a news conference Tuesday morning. 

“Sault Ste. Marie was selected based on its environmental and site suitability, capital and operating costs and an assessment of community acceptance for hosting the facility,” said Noront President and CEO Alan Coutts. “We anticipate a lengthy and comprehensive environmental permitting process for our Ferrochrome Production Facility, which will allow us to engage in a fulsome way with the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie and other stakeholders including environmental groups and First Nations."

Once operational, the smelter is expected to employ 300-500 people directly and more than 1,000 people indirectly through suppliers and other businesses.

Noront plans to locate the FPF on Algoma Steel property and is in the process of finalizing a land agreement. 

There are still many key steps before construction begins in mid-2025.  Some of those are environmental and feasibility assessments, community consultation and engagement, project design, technical approvals and finally a construction tender.  The facility is expected to take three years to build and is dependent on the development of road infrastructure to the Ring of Fire. 

Premier Doug Ford issued the following statement in response to the announcement that Noront Resources has named Sault Ste. Marie the home of its new ferrochrome plant:

"Our government promised to make Northern Ontario Open for Business and Open for Jobs. This new processing plant has the potential to create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, benefitting skilled resource and manufacturing workers across the region.

I want to personally thank Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Parliamentary Assistant Ross Romano for their incredible work in Northern Ontario. Thanks to their ongoing leadership, we are building new infrastructure, creating new economic opportunities and bringing prosperity to communities throughout the North."

The initial chromite mined from the Ring of Fire will be from the Blackbird Chromite deposit and then processed at the plant in Sault Ste. Marie. The RoF chromite deposits offer significant potential due to their size, grade and location, and provides an opportunity to supply the global ferrochrome market for at least 50 years. 

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano says  many people and groups were involved in making this bid happen.

“I want to recognize the efforts of the FPF project team, the support of the executive leadership at Algoma Steel, and the support of MP Sheehan, MPP Romano, Chief Sayers of Batchewana First Nation and Chief Syrette of Garden River First Nation. I also want to ensure our community and our Indigenous partners that we are committed to substantial community consultation and engagement as we move forward.”   

CTV Northern Ontario's Lydia Chubak spoke to Timmins Mayor George Pirie who says the city is disappointed, but remains optimistic."

Pirie says they expect that the construction on the smelter facility is still a decade away, so city officials will continue to lobby with the eventual builders to have it located in Timmins. 

“We don’t think this is the end of the story. The facility will be unlikely to be built for a decade or more so it gives us ample opportunity to effect the eventual decision of where that facility will be built. Obviously we don’t think Noront will be the builders of the facility, it will take a much bigger corporation with much deeper pockets such as Glencore and so we’ll continue to work towards the selection of Timmins as the location for the building of that facility.” said Pirie.

The Noront team is expected to complete an exit interview with Timmins to explain its decision making.

Pirie says that the Timmins site offered more competitive capital costs, but that operational costs may have been better in the Sault Ste. Marie bid.