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."
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."