Noront Resources

The ring of fire heats up

In August 2007, Noront Resources made a discovery in northern Ontario, Canada, that would lead to an unprecedented staking rush on the geological structures surrounding it. They found what is now known as “the ring of fire.”

The first deposit Noront found—Eagle One—was a high-grade nickel-copper-platinum palladium deposit. The second—appropriately named Eagle Two—was yet another massive nickel-copper deposit, just two kilometres from the first. Following those finds were two high-grade chromite deposits—Blackbird One and Two—discovered within kilometres of Eagle properties. Although the deposits are not yet completely defined and exploration is ongoing, the deposits look to have the tonnage and grade to be classified as world-class. It should come as no surprise, then, that Noront considers this area to be one blazing hot spot.

“It’s been an exciting time for Noront,” says Wes Hanson, President and CEO. “There has been a lot of activity and positive news. We have expanded our resource significantly from when we first discovered it. We continue to see a great deal of exploration and success in the ring of fire.”

Developing a mineral belt

The ring of fire is a unique geological district to Canada and, possibly, the world. It’s very large—approximately three times bigger than the Sudbury basin. Hanson believes the ring of fire is a structural feature that resulted from faulting in the earth’s crust, after deep-seeded volcanic activity. “The magmatic solutions and fluids permeated up to the surface and deposited what we believe are significant deposits of a multitude of metals, such as nickel, copper, gold, chromite, platinum-palladium, and that’s the beginning,” he says. “Exploration has only really been going on for the past two years.”

“The exciting thing is if there’s going to be development, it’s going to be to all of the metals together, as a mineral belt,” Joseph Hamilton, Chairman of the Board, told George Media last March. “It will be a multi-commodity mineral development that won’t just focus on nickel or platinum group elements or chromite; it will include mines that will produce all of them. The nickel and chromite deposits are so close together, that they will likely be mined from a single set of infrastructure. They’re only about five kilometres apart.”

At the moment, most of Noront’s discoveries are limited to large, high-grade chromite deposits. “The potential is immense,” Hanson says. In December 2009, Noront just released Canada’s first chromite resource. “There is no outcrop to help us guide our exploration effort, so that makes it difficult,” Hanson adds. “We’re relying on geophysics to identify target areas, but we have had a 30 per cent success rate in terms of drilling on geophysical targets and finding something of potential merit.”

“Funds were committed last year to drill the chromite deposits to a level that would allow a reasonable resource estimate to be made of Noront’s chromite content. At that time, it was limited to a depth of 250 metres from surface, so there is room for expansion there.”

The road ahead

Noront Resources is well-positioned for future success. “Right now, we’re not experiencing any significant challenges,” says Hanson. “This is still at exploration stage. We have excellent people working with us—some of the brightest in terms of geological and geophysical interpretation.
The long-term issue is one of infrastructure development. The ring of fire is in a remote area without road access. Well north of Thunder Bay, the project is located in the James Bay Lowlands, a largely unpopulated area. There is minimal infrastructure, lack of skilled work forces and no access to the Ontario power grid. That being said, Hanson seems confident. “We have contracted SNC- Lavalin Inc. to evaluate a number of different transportation routes and alternatives,” he says.

The Infrastructure and Transportation Study is intended to review all potential routes (i.e. roads and concentrate slurry pipelines) from the site to existing permanent infrastructure, such as road and rail lines in northern Ontario. The study is intended to be in two phases with the first phase to be completed in the first quarter of 2010.

Noront Resources is heading the right direction to achieve its goal. “Our current vision is to become Canada’s next major mining company,” tells Hanson. “That’s been the focus since I came on board. We’re committed to that course of action and we believe we have the skills and project to accomplish what we set out for.”