Thunder Bay

Ring of Fire gold exploration would mean jobs in Thunder Bay, Noront says

Noront has started looking for a partner with gold experience to help it exploit deposits in the region. If it succeeds, it will need people to work geology, geophysics, line-cutting, claim-staking, and other exploration troles, president Alan Coutts told CBC.

The company has started looking for a partner with gold experience to help it exploit deposits in the region

(CBC)

The president of Noront Resources says gold exploration in the Ring of Fire could create more jobs for people in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The company has started looking for a partner with gold experience to help it exploit deposits in the region.

If it succeeds, it would create more labour force opportunities for people across the region, Alan Coutts told CBC. 

"In the early days it would be in geology, in geophysics, line-cutting, claim-staking, some of those traditional exploration type of roles," Coutts said.  "But then also the support functions, you know, kind of feeding and clothing those people and, you know, airplanes and helicopters. And so there's a lot of spin-offs even at the early exploration stages."

Once the mine is in production, the company would be flying people and goods in and out on a regular basis and would need a range of services to support its activities, he added.  

Alan Coutts has led Noront Resources since 2013. He said the company chose to seek a partner for gold exploration now because the market conditions are right. (Alan Coutts-- Twitter)

Noront has known about the gold in the Ring of Fire for around a decade, Coutts said, but it chose now to look for a partner because the market conditions are right.

"A lot of the gold companies, kind of mid-tier and majors, they're looking right now for district-scale plays," he said. 

"They don't want to waste their time on just kind of small exploration efforts.  If they can do something that explores an entire region or district, like the area we've tied up in the Ring of Fire, that's of interest." 

The company decided to seek a partner to pursue the gold exploration in part because Noront is already investing considerable time and resources in its nickel, copper, zinc and chromite deposits, Coutts said.

It also wants to work with a team that has a lot of experience with gold.

"It's difficult in the Ring of Fire," Coutts explained.  "It's James Bay lowlands, so it's quite kind of boggy ground ... and unlike the base metals I was talking about, where you can use geophysical tools to discover them, it's very difficult on the gold side, so you really need to have a dedicated effort with experienced gold people using all the modern tools and deep pockets to get the work done." 

Several such companies have already shown interest in the project, he added.

Asked whether Noront was pursuing gold — which is valuable enough to justify transporting it out of mine sites by air — because of uncertainty about when a road to the Ring of Fire might be completed, Coutts said it was unlikely the company would be able to generate revenue from gold before a road was built. 

"I would anticipate by the time a gold program actually delivers discovery and ultimately positive feasibility, it would be years," he said, "but now's a good time to start."