IGNACE, Ont. – A proposed iron ore mine near Ignace is moving ahead with an environmental assessment, with an important deadline for public participation less than a month away.
Ambershaw Metallics, a subsidiary of UK-based Legacy Hill Resources, is looking to construct an open-pit iron mine that would require draining and damming part of Bending Lake, about 50 kilometres southwest of Ignace. The project also includes construction of a processing plant that would produce high-grade iron pellets for North American steel mills.
The company expects the mine would be in operation for 20 to 40 years, with around 200 permanent jobs. The mine is expected to consist of one long open pit, about three kilometres long and one kilometer wide, and would have a capacity of 23,000 tonnes per day.
But before it can go ahead, the project must pass a federal environmental assessment, and address potential impacts to 11 First Nations that could be affected. The federal government announced this week it is making funding available (https://ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/evaluations/document/133641?culture=en-CA ) to support public participation in the process. The deadline to apply is Feb. 21.
The company says there are no residences on the property, and only one seasonal residence on Bending Lake, with Ignace being the nearest settlement. However, the area is within the traditional territory of several First Nations communities, which the company needs to consult about impacts to wildlife, hunting, fishing, and trapping in the area.
Legacy Hill founder and chairman Saradhi Rajan says his company takes environmental impacts seriously, and touted their remediation record.
“Our industry has been guilty of some major mistakes in the past, [and] we need to take a much more holistic view,” he says. “[Legacy Hill Resources has] owned and run a number of mines around the world, some of which have now been remediated. We have a project in Virginia where, if you were to go there today, you wouldn’t see any sign of there ever having been a mine.”
A Thunder Bay-based group called Bending Lake Iron Ore Group purchased the property from Algoma Steel in 2003, and sought to develop a similar. open-pit project. The group estimated the project would cost around $900 million at that time. But that company went bankrupt, and Ambershaw stepped in to purchase the property in 2016.
Rajan says that, while other companies have failed to get the project started, Ambershaw will be taking a different approach.
“Each [previous] iteration of the project has focused on producing quite low-value, high-volume product to send all the way across the world to China,” he explained. “I think that type of model really doesn’t work in today’s world, in a more technology-driven, low-carbon emissions world.”
Rajan says the Bending Lake iron deposit is an attractive opportunity because it’s high quality and close to the surface, while he also praised Ontario’s “fairly transparent” regulations and qualified regional workforce. He expects the project would create 200 to 500 temporary construction jobs and support up to 200 ancillary positions, in addition to the permanent workforce.