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Ring of Fire 'soap opera' continues with recent court ruling

A mining industry observer says a recent court ruling will do nothing to spur development in the Ring of Fire.
Last week, a court ruled Cliffs Natural Resources may go to the Minister of Mines for permission to build a road over land owned by KWG. KWG had been withholding consent. (The Canadian Press)

A mining industry observer says a recent court ruling will do nothing to spur development in the Ring of Fire.                                  

A divisional court ruled last week that Cliffs Natural Resources may apply to the province to build a road over KWG Resources' land.

KWG had been withholding its consent.

Cliffs has said it wants to build a road to transport ore from the Ring of Fire in the Northwest.

A recent court decision granted Cliffs Natural Resources an easement into a corridor of land heading into the Ring of Fire from the James Bay lowlands. We hear from the company who claimed that land first, KWG Resources. 6:58

In an interview last week, Cliffs vice-president Bill Boor said the decision was reason for optimism for Sudburians.

The company has floated the idea of a chromite smelter in Capreol.                

But the head of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Services Association said Cliffs still has to satisfy the minister, negotiate with Aboriginal groups and complete environmental assessments.

“If it's a good step, I'm not sure for whom,” Dick Destefano said.

“But it seems to open up another avenue for discussion — which means another delay and another discussion, and another study.”

He noted there are so many variables that the opportunities around the project could easily vanish.

“This is like the Wizard of Oz for me,” Dick Destefano said.

“We're going down this golden road and we've got more interruptions and problems. No one knows. And that's the issue you probably should be aware of.”

More negotiations ahead

Destefano added Cliffs has a new board of directors which has stated it might want out of the chromite business in Canada. If Cliffs pulls out of the project all together, it would be another twist to what has become, in his opinion, a "soap opera."

The vice president of exploration and development with KWG, told CBC News its going to take time — and many more conversations — before any ore is out of the ground.

"The critical path here, is not necessarily the deal between the private companies," Moe Lavigne said.

"The critical path here is a commitment by both the First Nations and the government of Ontario to develop [a] regional infrastructure network that everybody's happy with."

Lavigne said the next step should be the province and First Nations finalizing a deal on moving forward.

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