THUNDER BAY — The cost of building a specialized rail line to haul ore out of the remote Ring of Fire mineral belt has been pegged at US$657 million.
Toronto-based proponent KWG Resources has long contended that transporting ore by an electrified railway would be cheaper and better for the environment than doing so by diesel-powered trucks.
The proposed “Rail-Veyor tramway system” would be designed to annually transport 10 million tonnes of chromite over a 338-kilometre line between Nakina and the Ring of Fire, located about 550 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.
A construction timeline has not been set.
Chromite is a key ingredient in the manufacture of stainless steel. One of the main chromite deposits in the Ring of Fire is Black Horse, which is controlled by KWG.
Adjacent deposits are held by Noront Resources, which is slated to be taken over by Australia’s Wyloo Metals if Noront shareholders approve that proposal early next year.
In a news release last week about the rail-line proposal, KWG said operating costs once the line is up and running are estimated to be just under US$3 per tonne.
The corridor for the rail and hydro line would be wide enough to accommodate a parallel all-weather road, the company says.
The cost estimates were prepared for KWG by Cormorant Utilities Services and Sudbury-based Rail-Veyor Technologies, which already builds rail-based conveyors for the mining industry.
According to Rail-Veyor’s website, ore-hauling cars “ride on steel wheels with heavy-duty automotive bearings.
A lead car, with four wheels instead of two, is placed at the head of each train and is equipped with safety signals.”
The system is designed to handle grade inclines of up to 30 per cent.
In the 1950s, the technology wasn’t seen as commercially viable because “the mechanical equipment and computer software (required) were not advanced enough,” a Rail-Veyor backgrounder said.
“The pressure to move away from fossil-fuel burning diesel trucks and infrastructure-intensive conveyors was less than compelling.”
“Now well into the 21st century,” the backgrounder added, “all of that has changed.”
To prepare for the rail-line project’s construction financing, KWG and its subsidiary company have formed a partnership with Matawa and Mushkegowuk First Nations, the KWG news release said.
Carl Clutchey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal