ArcelorMittal gets nod for Arctic ironore venture

Toronto: Facing hurdles in France, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal today got green light from Canada for its multi-billion dollar project to develop one of the world's largest iron-ore mines in the Baffin Island in the Arctic.

The local Nunavut Impact Review Board gave its final clearance to the project under which ArcelorMittal-led consortium will begin construction of the new iron-mine close to Arctic, CBC reported.

ArcelorMittal acquired the Mary River deposit in the Canadian Arctic last year in a USD 567.61 million deal as part of its new thrust to reach its long-term goal of nearly doubling its iron ore production, reducing dependence on miners such as Vale SA, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

ArcelorMittal will hold seventy per cent stake in the Arctic venture with the rest to be shared by Australia's Iron Ore Holdings LP.

The 17,000-hectare mine and associated infrastructure, including a port and railway, is expected to cost between Canadian dollars 4-5 billion, with first production about five years after construction starts.

CBC said the Canadian board's decision was the culmination of a four-year assessment of the project, in which Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation plans to build a massive open-pit mine at its Mary River site about 160 kilometres south of Pond Inlet, Nunavut, along with a railway and port that would allow icebreakers to ship the ore through Arctic waters year-round.

The television network quoted a local board official as saying that the current production plan was for 18 million tonnes which would be ramped up "fairly quickly within the first year or two of start of production".

The Arctic is considered to be the last frontier of mining and until just a few years back, the huge resources had been left untapped due to the region's inaccessibility and the massive costs of extraction. But now, due to the exponential rise in commodity prices, the mining companies feel that the risk would be well compensated.

This will be the first iron-ore mine inside the Arctic circle where temperatures plunge to as low as -50 degree Celsius and to overcome this, ArcelorMittal is earmarking a staggering USD 2 billion for building a 140-kilometre railroad connecting the mines to a port.

The port near the mines can be reached only by ice-breaking cargo ships, with three times the normal engine power and custom-built to navigate frozen waters.

To provide stability, the railroad track would be set on a

four-metre deep foundation. Canadian official said that the construction of the port and the railroad would be completed between 18 months to 2 years.