The Province of Ontario is leading the creation of a development corporation that would develop, construct, finance, operate and maintain infrastructure to support mining development and First Nation communities in the Ring of Fire.
During an announcement Friday in Thunder Bay, Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Miners for Ontario, said the vast mineral potential in the Ring of Fire will create thousands of jobs and boost Ontario’s economy for years to come. He observed that competing private sector interests have impacted Cliffs Natural Resources future of development of its Big Thor chromite deposit.
Cliffs had stopped the environmental assessment over the project following a recent Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner’s ruling which denied Cliffs access to the deposit over the mining claims of KWG Resources.
In a letter to Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne asked the federal government to partner with Ontario, through the development corporation, in order to develop infrastructure investments for the region.
Stressing that infrastructure is vital to developing the Ring of Fire, creating jobs and putting products out to the global market, Gravelle said, “We need to determine what infrastructure will be most appropriate. That means that the current proposals on the table must come together while, at the same time, we must see the federal government join us in moving development forward.”
More than 500 miles from Thunder Bay, the region needs roads, as well as utilities to serve mining development. Estimated costs for adequate infrastructure are as much as C$1 billion for industrial infrastructure and $1.25 billion for roads. Deals also have to be made between governments and First Nations.
Wynne said other partners in the development corporation could include mining companies and First Nations.
Ontario has already invested $5 million to support community readiness and capacity building for the Ring of Fire communities. The province has also invested $15 million to improve the mapping, science and knowledge of the Far North to support land use planning.
The province is now prepared to invest a substantial sum in the project and wants Ottawa to match it to prepare the zone for mining, which is expected to be worth C$60 billion. In its2011 Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, the province noted, “This mineral-rich zone is said to have the potential for decades of chromite production, as well as significant production of nickel, copper and platinum.”
Gravelle observed that the federal government has matched provincial funding in Alberta with the oil sands, in Newfoundland with a $6 billion hydro-electric project and elsewhere.
In a statement to the news media, Cliff Natural Resources office in Thunder Bay said it has worked hard to build positive relationships with First Nations and mining companies in the region, and “welcome the opportunity to work with those partners and governments at both the federal and provincial level to advance our project.”
KWG Resources President Frank Smeenk told CBC News that he’s enthusiastic about Ontario’s plans. “This mechanism at least, initially will give us one place to be able to go and talk to everybody that needs to be talked to.”