Engineers from China recently visited the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario to assess the potential of building a $ 2-billion railway line, a proponent behind developing minerals in the area said Tuesday.
He said a team of engineers from a subsidiary of the state-owned China Railway Construction Corp. surveyed a proposed 328-kilometre route last week as part of detailed engineering work before they advance toward a final investment decision.
“They had to visit the route, to see it with their own eyes,” said Smeenk.
“I think we have an obligation to look after the First Nations, and if in doing that we can make the mineral deposit more accessible, then I think that’s a bonus, but we shouldn’t make one the hostage of the other,” said Smeenk.
U.S.-based Cliffs Natural Resources spent $ 550 million buying land in the area and proposed to spend $ 3.3 billion to develop the deposits plus $ 1.8 billion to build a chromite processing facility in Capreol, near Sudbury, Ont.
Smeenk said the Cliffs exit has calmed down expectations and the pace of development, and the Ring of Fire is now moving ahead more sensibly.
“Things got less silly quite honestly after Cliffs threw in the towel,” said Smeenk.
He said the Ring of Fire’s deposit of chromite is particularly attractive for China, whose vast steelmaking industry requires the mineral.