Rock to Road

News
Wawa trap rock miner searches for a partner


March 2, 2010
By Andy Bateman

March
2, 2010 – The proponent behind a Lake Superior
trap rock open pit mine could begin carving out a granite quarry this year if a
new joint venture partner is secured, says a report in Northern Ontario Business.

Bruce Staines, mine manager of
Superior Aggregates Inc., told NOB that once his Michigan-based parent company,
the Carlos Group, settles on a partner, very little is likely to happen on the
quarry and upgrades to a nearby commercial dock.

Though unclear about the status of the partner search, he was expecting to get
an update from company officials at the upcoming Ontario,
Stone, Sand and Gravel Association annual general meeting in Toronto, Feb. 17-19.

“I'll be a lot smarter after that,” joked Staines, who added no site
preparation work has started for the quarry, nor any upgrades to an adjacent
commercial dock in Michipicoten Bay on the east shore of Lake Superior.

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The conference is considered one of the biggest networking events in the aggregate
industry and is attended by the likes of Lafarge and St. Marys Cement Group.

Superior Aggregates is a subsidiary of the Carlo Companies, a Detroit-area
civil construction, transportation and land development firm.

The firm is well-known as a builder of super highways in the U.S. Staines said
a potential new partner would have expertise in marketing, logistics and
distribution.

Trap rock is not geological term but refers to any igneous rock quarried and
crushed to make aggregate for highway and railroad construction, and as an
ingredient in making cement. Depending on the economy and markets, the quarry
production would start at 500,000 tonnes annually.

Staines said as much as 25 per cent of the aggregate would go to the Carlo
Companies, depending on level of U.S. road construction. The
remainder is earmarked for the open North American market.

“Some of the major producers in the business are expecting a flat year at best
for 2010,” said Staines.

The company has a newly-issued quarry licence in hand after receiving a
favourable ruling last summer from the Ontario Municipal Board to proceed with
development.

The project had been mired in a seven-year dispute between the Township of Wawa and a group of conservation-minded
local residents over a zoning approval of the quarry project. The proposed
quarry and stone crushing operation sits as close as 50 metres to the shore.

When in operation, 30 jobs will be created year-round in heavy equipment
operating, crushing and quality control. Staines
said the company is not yet hiring, but adds there's been no shortage of
inquiries.

The company is licensed to mine 7 million tonnes but there are reserves for
potentially 1 billion tonnes on their 400-hectare property.

The quarry is 15 kilometres southwest of Wawa and includes a 455-metre-long
commercial dock that was once an iron ore and coal dock for Algoma Steel (now
Essar Steel Algoma).

Upgrading the dock would be a big economic development asset for the region.

The prospect of new harbour infrastructure has drawn attention from nearby
communities and forestry companies in Wawa, Chapleau and White
River with plans to ship wood pellets or other value-added forest
products by freighter.

Staines said his company would have no
objections to outsider users accessing their dock.

A rail spur from the harbour running inland to a former iron ore mine was
removed after 1998. But the right-of-way remains and that could be used for a
haul road to connect with the Trans-Canada
Highway (Highway 17), 11 kilometres away.

It would also mean building silos and covered conveyors to keep the wood pellet
material dry.

Staines is reluctant to put a price tag on the
whole operation since the company has a number of different development
scenarios on the table.

Much of it hinges on Ontario Power Generation signing a long-term deal with
forestry companies to supply wood pellets to its power generating stations in
places like Thunder Bay
and Atikokan.

As well, Superior Aggregates is also anxiously waiting word from government on
their application for federal-provincial infrastructure stimulus funding to
upgrade the dock.

The water depth at the dock is 22 feet, considered too shallow to fully-load Great Lakes and saltwater freighters. Dredging and some
blasting of the bedrock bottom would be required if they chose to go deeper.

“The port would be separate from the quarry and would be operated as a
business,” said Staines.