By Matt Sookram.
After 10 years the Ring of Fire remains stalled at the earliest stages of development, and that's bad news for North Bay with up to 70 mining related companies located here.
A roundtable discussion, part of Mining Week in North Bay, tackled different ideas last night on how to move forward with the project.
David Paul Achneepineskum is the Chief Executive Officer for Matawa First Nations Management and says they are really building the foundation first, before they can begin discussions and, more importantly, negotiations.
Achneepineskum says there are still many factors to consider, “We have four pillars that we want to address and agree upon. One is environment, the other is revenue sharing, and there’s also infrastructure and community and social economic impacts.”
Some of the major discussions in the past have centred on whether the best way to transport chromite out of the Ring of Fire is by rail or road.
Achneepineskum says they are more supportive of using roads as it would connect more First Nations communities with all-weather roads.
There are nine First Nations potentially impacted by this mining deposit development and Achneepineskum says, “If the mine is going to go beyond 25-30 years and we see a feasibility of a rail line being put there, certainly that’s something we can look at in the future. But I don’t feel that’s a priority right now.”
Alan Coutts agreed with that point of view.
Coutts is the President and CEO of Noront Resources, which is the main developer in this process.
“The first development we’re looking at is going to be a shared development. So it will support economic development of the mining region, but at the same time brings infrastructure to the First Nations communities.”
Coutts added, “We’re dealing with the Canadian Shield so there are some rocky areas and there’s also some areas that are quite boggy. It’s not unheard of to construct roads over this type of terrain. Northern Alberta, the Oil sands, have numerous roads constructed over similar type of terrain and this is no different. Is it more expensive per kilometer to construct? Absolutely. But that’s part of the process of developing the northern communities.”
If cost isn’t the main issue, timing certainly could be.
“Hopefully if we get everything right it will be ready for the next commodity cycle” points out Chris Hodgson, the President of Ontario Mining Association.
Hodgson says if things turn around in Asia there will be a demand for their products and that means getting things done sooner than later, but again emphasized that the right deal has to be in place.
“There’s lots of places in the world that have geological potential, but in those places you kind of hedge political unrest. In Ontario we’ve always had the advantage that we can borrow money cheaply so we can be competitive on the global market and pay high wages and that was because we had honestly applied rules that were transparent. If you found a discovery and followed the rules you could bring it into production. I hope they are not losing the sight of that fact.”
“The Ring of Fire was discovered almost a decade ago now so obviously we have had plenty of time to do it right,” says Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli.
Fedeli says it was great they could hold the stakeholders meeting in North Bay during North Bay Mining Week, but he says this project needs to see some real movement.
“When you have almost 10 years with nothing happening from the province of Ontario, that’s a large concern with the mining community. Who’s delaying this and why, is a real question to be asking.”
The Nipissing MPP added there is money being promised, but the promises have not yet been kept.
“They continue to talk about a billion dollars in the 2016 budget. It was the exact same commitment they made in the 2015 budget and the same commitment they made in the 2014 budget so it’s obviously the province that is dragging this down.”