CBC News has learned Cliffs Natural Resources is not locked into its decision to build a smelter near Sudbury.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information reveal the American company’s plans to shop around for the best deal on electricity prices and tax rates.

In an e-mail to his colleagues, Bill Thornton with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines recapped some "confidential highlights" from a 2011 meeting with Cliffs.

"Not mentioned in the document [Cliffs' base case] is the fact that Cliffs will also examine whether other jurisdictions outside of Ontario offer better costs (sic) advantages for locating their ferrochrome production facility."

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Minister of Northern Development and Mines Rick Bartolucci has said the province is taking advantage of the Ring of Fire deposit to further open up economic opportunities in northern Ontario. Earlier this year, the province signed a deal with Cliffs to locate its smelter in Sudbury, Ont. But ministry officials now say the details still aren’t finalized. (CBC)

A slide from a Minister’s office briefing from Dec. 16, 2011 labelled "confidential draft for discussion" said: "Cliffs base case scenario has identified a potential site north of Sudbury (Capreol) but intelligence suggests that Quebec has been aggressively lobbying for a site near Becancour where there is an existing industrial complex supporting aluminum production."

Ontario 'location of choice'

Earlier this year, the province signed a deal with Cliffs for the smelter. But ministry officials now say the details still aren’t finalized.

"In May of this year, we were delighted that Ontario secured a $3.3 billion investment from Cliffs, who will mine chromite ore and build a ferrochrome processing facility in Northern Ontario," a ministry spokesperson wrote in an email to CBC News this week.

"Cliffs indicated that, overall, Ontario was the location of choice for the facility for a number of reasons, including the geographical proximity (transportation) to the mine site," Laura Blondeau wrote. "The province is currently in discussion with Cliffs on a number of areas, including electricity costs, and is working to finalize many aspects of the arrangement that would bring this proposed project to our province."