The Ontario government announced plans to establish a development corporation to build infrastructure that would develop, construct, finance, operate and maintain infrastructure to support mining development and First Nation communities in the Ring of Fire region.
At a press conference in Thunder Bay, Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle announced that the province is “taking action” to move forward on infrastructure development for the mining companies and First Nation communities in the James Bay lowlands, Northern Ontario Business reported.
But Ottawa needs to come to the table, he said.
“My intention is, and always has been, to drive this project forward,” said Gravelle. “We are going to invest in this vital piece of infrastructure. But we really need the federal government to join us.”
Mineral exploration of the chromite and nickel deposits in the Ring of Fire has stalled largely because of a lack of government direction on how to develop road or rail access to this future mining camp, 600 km north of Thunder Bay.
Cliffs Natural Resources, the largest mining player in the region, halted the environmental assessment of its Big Thor chromite deposit and is reassessing its future following a recent Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner's ruling that denied the Cliffs overland access to its deposit atop the mining claims of a rival company.
“We need to get people in to work and goods out to the global market,” said Gravelle. “Currently there are a variety of proposals for infrastructure development. They propose different corridors and different modes of transportation, but in the end, they all lead to the same place.”
Gravelle said the vast mineral potential in the Ring of Fire will create thousands of jobs and boost Ontario's economy for years to come, but added it's a “complex undertaking” in a remote part of Ontario that's never seen development before.
“Various federal ministers of the Crown have been telling us they are committed to working with us, and that they will make the necessary investments to support Northern Ontario, and make this project a reality. Well, the time has come for the federal government to step up.
“They've done it in Alberta with the oil sands, in Newfoundland with a $6-billion dollar hydro-electric project and elsewhere like B.C. They need to place the same amount of significance in northern Ontario as the Wynne government does, as we all here do.”
Cliffs was encouraged to see Queen's Park take a leadership role in the planning and financing of infrastructure in the Ring.
“We have 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,” said the company in a statement.
“Without infrastructure, none of the projects currently proposed or imagined in the region will become a reality, so it is important that we move swiftly to establish that infrastructure in a way that is sustainable, responsible, and benefits local communities.”