Noront Resources says it expects to have a strategic plan and a preliminary economic assessment regarding its recently acquired chromite deposits in the Ring of Fire by early next year.

The Toronto-based mining company announced Wednesday it will borrow an additional US$2 million to advance exploration on its RoF properties, including its proposed Eagle's Nest nickel mine.

The loan is with Denver-based Resources Capital Fund (RCF), the same investment firm that earlier loaned Noront $15 million for work in the RoF.

"Noront is pleased that its largest shareholder (RCF) is supportive of its ongoing work plans, said a Noront news release.

RCF holds a 21.5 per cent stake in Noront, which remains the main RoF player following the pullout of Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources.

In April, Noront purchased major RoF chromite deposits, including the flagship Black Thor property, that were previously held by Cliffs for US $27.5 million.

"We feel $27.5 million is an attractive price for the acquisition of these strategic assets," Noront president Alan Coutts said at the time.

Noront now holds 360 mining claims and roughly 65 per cent (80,000 hectares) of the Ring of Fire mining belt located about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

Coutts earlier cautioned against the prospect of a new chromite mine in the near future.

"These are fabulous deposits, but there is no infrastructure in place," he said.

In Wednesday's news release, the company reiterated its intentions "to have meaningful dialogue with local First Nations and government regarding the development of these chromite assets which represent a generational opportunity."

Noront has said it will first focus on the development of its proposed $700-million Eagle's Next nickel mine. The company has so far spent $150 million developing that project.

The mine will require the construction of a $500-million east-west access road connecting the mine site to Pickle Lake.

Earlier this month, the provincial and federal governments jointly provided $785,000 for a First Nation-led study into a road that could benefit both mining companies and remote reserves in the Ring of Fire.

For the purchase of Cliff's Ring of Fire deposits, Noront relied on a seven-year loan from Franco Nevada Corporation.

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