Ontario has taken an important next step toward developing the Ring of Fire, working with Webequie, Marten Falls and Nibinamik First Nations to plan and construct a year-round access road into the proposed mining development site being pursued by Noront Resources.
As part of this project, the province is also working with First Nations to build all-season access roads to their communities.
Premier Kathleen Wynne was in Thunder Bay today with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle, to announce that Ontario will support First Nations to plan and construct an east-west road connecting the Webequie and Nibinamik communities to the provincial highway network north of Pickle Lake. This project would provide all-season access to both First Nations communities as well as into the Ring of Fire development says a news release from the Premier's office.
Communities are working to begin environmental assessments of these projects by January 2018 and plan to begin construction in 2019, pending all necessary approvals.
As a next phase, Ontario will continue to support Marten Falls to undertake further technical and environmental studies that could inform planning and development of a north-south access road tied to the development of, and business case for, chromite mining in the Ring of Fire.
"Building these roads is a critical step in realizing the economic benefits of one of the biggest mineral-development opportunities in Ontario in almost a century," continues the release. "Funding for these roads is part of the government's commitment to invest $1 billion in Ring of Fire infrastructure to create jobs, provide long-term benefits and improve quality of life for people in the region.
"Investing in the development of the Ring of Fire while ensuring that First Nations participate in and benefit from this development is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives."
The mineral deposits in the Ring of Fire have an estimated value of $60 billion.Exploration discoveries to date include high-grade chromite, high-grade nickel, copper, zinc, gold, platinum group metals and vanadium.
Chromite is an essential ingredient in the production of stainless steel.
“I am grateful to the Matawa First Nations, who have been working with us for years to get to this historic day. The entire Ring of Fire region has huge potential for development that would benefit all of the communities involved and the entire province — creating new jobs and improving the quality of life for people in the North. Getting shovels in the ground to build this connection to the Ring of Fire will move us forward towards unlocking its full potential," said Premier Wynne.
“Today’s announcement is a major step forward for Noront as we prepare to develop our nickel and chromite deposits in the Ring of Fire," added Alan Coutts, President of Noront Resources.
"Establishment of a road network with agreement on industrial access is our most important project advancement milestone, and we are very pleased to see it move ahead. We look forward to working closely with the province and First Nations communities through the road construction and mine development processes.”
Buy PC leader Patrick Brown is skeptical.
“The Ring of Fire represents an unprecedented economic and jobs opportunity for the North. Unfortunately, since its discovery in 2007 it has not been a priority for the Liberals. They are only in the North now because we’re a year out from an election. Any promise Kathleen Wynne makes on the Ring of Fire today she will break if she wins again.
“The Liberals have promised action on the Ring of Fire time and time again, but they can't be trusted. They've sat on their hands and haven’t gotten anything done. They announced funding for the Ring of Fire for three budgets in a row, but this was just window dressing. And shockingly, in the most recent budget, the Wynne Liberals removed any reference to the Ring of Fire whatsoever. Where’s the funding for today’s announcement coming from? After years of taking the North for granted, now, in an election year they’re pretending to show up and deliver."