Chinese diplomats are intent on building trust with northern Ontario First Nations to further their mining interests, according to a Chinese-Canadian business man.

Peng You, a Thunder Bay resident with ties to China, helped facilitate a recent visit by China's Consulate-General to Webequie First Nation. He said the arrival of one of China's top diplomats in Canada is significant.

"I think that part is very important. It's not just for one company. In future, more companies [will] invest in northwest Ontario, especially in [the] mining industry."

Webequie is one of the First Nations closest to a promising chromite deposit in the James Bay lowlands.

For months, US-company Cliffs Natural Resources has been the focus of discussions about development in the Ring of Fire.

But the Chinese company Sinocan is expected to start drilling near Webequie next month.

Peng You said soon chiefs and elders from northwestern Ontario could be on their way to China to talk about the Ring of Fire as part of a diplomatic exchange.

"They have to have some knowledge about China … because to deal with Chinese business people [it’s important to learn] a bit of culture about them," Peng You said.

Ontario's Ring of Fire secretariat oversees development in the mineral development area.

A spokesperson said the secretariat had "no knowledge" of the Chinese visit.