Cliffs Natural Resources says a recent decision by the Ontario mining commissioner will make it difficult to continue justifying its mining project in the Ring of Fire.

The commissioner turned down Cliffs request to build a road over claims staked by KWG Resources.

In a statement September 11th, Cliffs had called the decision disappointing.  In a more detailed response released Friday, Cliffs said it is open to possible solutions, but a pathway must be developed quickly to overcome what it calls a major setback.

Cliffs wants to build a 340 kilometre all-weather road from a location in Greenstone to its mine site, something the miner says is essential to the development of the Ring of Fire and a necessary component of Cliffs’ Chromite Project, which includes the development of a mine and processing operation at the mine site, a trans-load operation in the Greenstone area, and a Ferrochrome Processing Facility in Capreol (near Sudbury).

Cliffs said the decision is not an appropriate use of mining claims under Ontario’s Mining Act.

“Without access to the surface lands to develop the needed infrastructure, there is no project,” said Cliffs official Bill Boor in a news release.

“Our proposed development has the scale needed to develop the road access and is therefore a catalyst for other smaller mining opportunities in the Ring of Fire.”

First Nation objects

Cliffs stated the venture is projected to provide roughly 1,200 direct jobs and significant economic benefit opportunities for First Nations, resource companies and stakeholders in the region, as well as the province as a whole.

One First Nations community says it also stands to lose out if Cliffs stops working on the project.

“From the beginning, Marten Falls disagreed with the staking of mining claims along the corridor without our consultation,” said Chief Eli Moonias of Marten Falls First Nation in a press release.

“Now, the decision by the Ontario Government, that allows these claims to effectively block development of infrastructure that will be of great benefit to our community, is unacceptable. While we have a long way to go with questions about the environmental impacts as well as the future benefit agreement before our community supports the development, we have decided to work with Cliffs to address these questions. The decision along these historically contested claims to once again block our interests is troubling to say the least.”

Cliffs earlier temporarily suspended the environmental assessment activities, citing delays related to the environmental assessment process, land surface rights, and stalled negotiations with the province.