Ontario pledges $1B for Ring of Fire

Ontario's governing Liberals say they're willing to put up $1 billion to develop an all-season transportation corridor to the Ring of Fire.

Province urges Feds to match funds

Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti, Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle, and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Bill Mauro spoke in Thunder Bay on Monday about the province's $1 billion commitment to the Ring of Fire mining project in northern Ontario. (Adam Burns/CBC)

Ontario's governing Liberals say they're willing to put up $1 billion to develop an all-season transportation corridor to the Ring of Fire.

They're calling on Ottawa to match the funds to build the infrastructure that's needed to develop the mineral-rich deposit, which they say will create jobs and boost northern Ontario's hard-hit economy.

The province has maintained that the federal Conservatives should be actively involved in the Ring of Fire's development as they have for other projects, such as the Alberta oil sands.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has estimated the project could generate $9.4 billion in new economic activity over the next decade and support 5,500 jobs per year.

It said it would also provide the federal, Ontario and municipal governments with almost $2 billion in revenue over that period and $6.7 billion over 32 years.

But the lack of a transportation route has been a major barrier to developing the Ring of Fire — about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont. — which is believed to contain one of the largest chromite deposits in the world.

'Can't happen without infrastructure'

The project suffered a major setback in November, when a big mining company that was going to pour $3 billion into the Ring of Fire suddenly pulled out.

Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. suspended its operations indefinitely, saying it couldn't keep spending money while the question of whether it would be able to build an all-weather road to the remote site remained in doubt.

Noront Resources Ltd., which wants to develop its Eagle's Nest and Blackbird mining projects, said the province's commitment is a "vital milestone" that will benefit remote First Nations communities.

"Mining and the associated job creation can't happen without infrastructure, so we are pleased to see the province make a clear public commitment to funding a transportation corridor in the Ring of Fire," Noront president and CEO Alan Coutts said in a release.

The Liberals said they've been asking Ottawa for months to commit money to developing a route. They said they've asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pay for half the $2.25-billion estimated cost of building both roads and industrial infrastructure.

Greg Rickford, the federal minister responsible for the file, has said it's up to Ontario to apply for infrastructure funding under the new Building Canada fund, a $14-billion fund "that will support projects of national, regional and local significance," according to the federal government's website.

The Ring of Fire has mineral potential known to be worth $60 billion and includes the largest deposit of chromite ever discovered in North America. Chromite is a key ingredient of stainless steel. Located 540 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, the area is one of the most significant mineral regions in the province. It also reportedly holds the potential for significant production of nickel, copper, gold and platinum. (The Canadian Press)


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