"It‘s still very early in the process," Cliffs Resources spokeswoman Christine Dresch said Friday from the company‘s head office in Cleveland, Ohio.
Production at the future mine 500 kilometers (3120 miles) northeast of Thunder Bay won‘t start until 2015 at the earliest, Dresch said. As well, key related projects like a railroad and the location of a smelter have yet to be decided.
Still, Cliffs‘ acquisition Wednesday of some of the main chromite deposits from Toronto-based junior Freewest bumped up the excitement level a considerable notch.
"There‘s still a ways to go, but (Cliffs) definitely has the horses and the capability to do this project," commented Thunder Bay-based Garry Clark, executive-director of the Ontario Prospectors Association.
Dresch couldn‘t provide specific numbers, but the operation is expected to create thousands of jobs in direct and spin-off employment on remote First Nations and within the Municipality of Greenstone and Thunder Bay.
Chromite is the main ingredient in stainless steel. Ring of Fire is expected to make Cliffs, if it follows through with its plans, the world‘s largest chromite exporter.
Serious exploration at the Ring of Fire area began in 2002, when diamond magnet De Beers drilled there and made significant copper and zinc discoveries. Over the next five years, serious nickel and platinum discoveries were made during a rush of drilling and staking activity.
Geologists say the chromite deposit is so big it could be continuously mined for 100 years. Just as important, the mine and all its infrastructure could be the anchor for the development of other base-metal deposits along the new railway, said Clark.