No open pit mines for the Ring of Fire: Noront wants to keep a low mine profile in the James Bay region.

Author:Ross, Ian

Noront Resources doesn't intend to dig open-pit mines in the James Bay lowlands even though the abundance and the proximity of the rich chromite ore bodies to surface might dictate otherwise.

"It's a natural ore body for open-pit mining," said Noront president-CEO Allan Coutts during the Great Sudbury Chamber of Commerce's Procurement, Employment and Partnerships Conference in February.

"However, we've said quite categorically, we're not going to approach it as an open pit."

As the largest land holder in the Ring of Fire, Coutts said the thickness of their string of chromite deposits range between 10 and 30 metres, and come right up to the surface.

If they were designing these mine projects 10 to 20 years ago, Coutts said these deposits would certainly be mined by open-pit methods.

But pits generate plenty of waste rock, often disturb a large swath of land, and the water that seeps into the pits has to be treated before it's pumped back into the environment.

Surrounding First Nation communities had "significant concerns" about this, said Coutts.

"We just don't think that's the way to go about mining this."

In taking into consideration the wants and needs of the communities that they want to partner with, Noront redesigned their projects to address those concerns.

"There won't be an open pit and waste rock piles, and we have committed to putting the tailings back in the ground so there's no tailings enclosure at all," said Coutts.

Noront's development strategy is to bring its Eagle's Nest nickel-copper mine online first, followed by its chromite deposits, beginning with Blackbird.

If the provincial government stays true to its roadbuilding timetable next year, Noront plans to start construction of Eagle's Nest at the start of 2020 with production slated for mid-2022.

Noront's mantra is to develop the first mine in a way that's "progressive and successful and inclusive."

"You get one shot to do things right," he said. "We want to do this first mine right.

"We want this to be a shining success and we want this to be the first of numerous mines in the area."

As the key mine developer in the region, Noront has a pipeline of projects in chrome, nickel-copper, copper-zinc and vanadium.

Their intentions are to keep their imprint on the land as small as possible.

Coutts said Noront is adopting an underground bulk mining method, similar to LKAB's Kiruna Mine in northern Sweden, where waste rock is used to fill the cavities that are created when ore...

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