I WAS among the fairly large gathering that attended a recent presentation on the bid to build a ferrochrome processing plant in Thunder Bay. It was an interesting session dedicated to explaining the details of the project and why it should be built here.
Thunder Bay is one of four communities being considered for the plant, the others being Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Timmins. The ore concentrate to feed the mill would come from the giant chromite deposits in the Ring of Fire region to our northeast. And the deposits are giant. Doug Murray, CEO of the local economic development commission, stated there is between a 100- and 200-year supply of chromite in the ROF.
As the product of ferrochrome plants is an essential component of stainless steel and as demand for stainless is steadily growing, the market seems to be very healthy.
A ferrochrome mill is essentially a smelter which can conjure up visions of environmental disaster. On hand at the meeting though was a representative of a Finnish concern that operates a ferrochrome plant in northern Finland. The technology used in this plant is state of the art. Waste carbon gas for instance is captured and recycled for fuel, creating a clean, closed and efficient system.
The science and technology used in the Finnish facility would be duplicated in the local plant were it to be built in the preferred location on McKellar and Mission islands.
Over the past several decades, the most unfortunate thing to happen to Thunder Bay has been the relentless decline of its industrial base. A city with a broad, diverse economy has seen one mill after another disappear. A whole generation has had to move away for lack of opportunity. Our population declines and we have the unenviable record of having the highest percentage of people over the age of 60 in Canada.
Most recently it was revealed that local housing starts had hit new lows. A local economist was blunt when asked for a reason: we’ve simply failed to attract new industries and the jobs and wealth they bring to purchase new homes.
Government projects and grants have tried to keep the city going but this is old, recycled money that can only do so much. We have to get back to making new money with the production and sale of goods we make ourselves. It’s called independence and it’s good for us.
With this in mind, I sincerely hope local politicians and the entire community get behind and fully support our bid for a ferrochrome facility and any other worthy industries that could be coming our way.