Why is there so much anger over Cliffs Natural Resources Announcement?

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chromiteTHUNDER BAY – Editorial – In the Ontario Legislature on Wednesday, Question Period featured several outbursts during a question being asked by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath of the Deputy Premier Dwight Duncan. Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro was asked, twice by the Speaker of the Legislature to come to order.

One might have thought this would have been a happy time in Queen’s Park, especially for Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro. Afterall, the McGuinty Government is abeam with excitement over the Ring of Fire. The Deputy Premier was answering questions on the Ring of Fire and that very announcement from the New Democrat leader.

Why is there so much anger over Cliffs Natural Resources announcement?

Perhaps what was demonstrated in Queen’s Park yesterday was more frustration over the New Democrat leader telling a few more facts than the Liberals would have preferred people in Thunder Bay would hear?

The announcement by Cliffs Natural Resources and the McGuinty Government in Thunder Bay on Wednesday May 9th was on locating a ferrochrome processing unit and updates on the Ring of Fire.

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The McGuinty Government appears to be claiming that everything is a go from Cliffs Natural Resources, however the reality is that it is a long way before there will be a mine actually in operation.

Now, I know that kind of statement will be seen as being negative by some, but it is the facts. While some are saying that Cliffs will be in operation of a mine in 2013, the fact is they could be pulling minerals from the ground, but how would they get them to their processing site? There are no roads, no infrastructure and so far none of the environmental studies, or agreements with First Nations.

Do you think all of those studies, and a road built, and a mine started by the end of 2013? That is only an 18 month time frame. Road building in the north does not happen in the dead of winter so really what is being suggested by the McGuinty Government is that in a six month season next summer hundreds of kilometres of all-season road, along with bridges across creeks and rivers can all be done?

Maybe, if the McGuinty Government is willing to side-step all environmental concerns and studies. Otherwise it is time for a cold hard dose of reality.

What happened in Thunder Bay on May 9th is the McGuinty Government has demonstrated a lack of listening to the north, and a complete lack of understanding of realities across First Nations communities in our region. Cliffs Natural Resources announced a business decision, and our MPP Michael Gravelle in effect demonstrated that he is more concerned about Queen’s Park than Thunder Bay Superior North.

Minister Gravelle is a wonderful ‘hale fellow – well met’ individual. However during his term as Minister of Northern Development and Mines, and now as Minister for Natural Resources he has repeatedly shown his home team is the Liberal caucus in Queen’s Park not the long-term economic wellbeing of Northwestern Ontario.

That might sound harsh, but far too often Northwestern Ontario has been left on the fringes of major opportunities, and with his support for Sudbury, it is likely that Minister Gravelle will, long after he has retired from politics, be regretting his lack of playing hard for the home team.

When the day comes, and it will, that Minister Gravelle is just Michael again he will likely be wishing he did more. It is a common problem for all politicians who dance to their leader’s drum beat rather than to the needs of their home ridings.

Cliffs Natural Resources in a statement issued on May 9th report, “Bill Boor, senior vice president – global ferroalloys for Cliffs, said, ‘Today’s decision is a major milestone in our overall plan and adds more clarity to the project. Now, we are able to commit to a project definition, moving us closer to making the chromite project reality. By following a very rigorous and disciplined pre-feasibility approach, we are confident that the viability of the project is enhanced, which is critical to creating stable jobs and bringing other social and economic benefits to the region’.”

“Before Cliffs can make a final decision on the project in its entirety, the Company must receive provincial and federal environmental assessment approvals, negotiate mutually acceptable agreements with affected First Nations communities, work with governments to address the lack of infrastructure in the Ring of Fire and complete its commercial and technical feasibility studies”.

” ‘We will continue our work to meet all of the requirements of the environmental assessment process as well as the expectations of the First Nations and local communities, especially with regards to the social, environmental, and economic performance of this project should it proceed,’ said Boor.”

“Boor added, ‘We are very excited about the potential impact of this project for all of Northern Ontario. Assuming it goes ahead, our project has sufficient scale to justify infrastructure investments with the potential to connect remote communities with more populous municipalities, opening up the Ring of Fire to other responsible mining investments’.”

Do you note exactly what Cliffs is saying?

“Before Cliffs can make a final decision on the project in its entirety…” In other words the mining company has dangled a big carrot in front of the McGuinty Government and is seeking more money for infrastructure and other studies.

The stock market reaction on Wednesday was to see Cliffs stock go up by four cents after this announcment.

Why? There was not an announcement of a mine being developed, although Minister Duncan was stating “They announced that they’re going to build a chromite mine. They’re going to build a new transportation corridor and, yes, a $1.8-billion processing facility in Capreol, near Sudbury”.

Either Premier McGuinty, Minister Bartolucci and Minister Duncan have done far more behind closed doors than they are telling Ontarians, or we have a real problem in Queen’s Park.

Not to pour cold water on Minister Duncan’s claims, but Cliffs Natural Resources states, “As previously disclosed, Cliffs indicated that, although it believes the chromite deposits it controls are world-class, a number of additional studies, including feasibility, and other project milestones need to be completed before the Company begins allocating a significant portion of capital to the project’s construction. Based on the completion of these studies, Cliffs anticipates a majority of the project’s anticipated capital requirements would be made in 2014 and 2015, with an early works program initiated prior to 2014 to maintain project execution timeline”.

What Cliffs announced on May 9th was that the project is moving from the pre-feasibility stage to the feasibility stage.

Based on reaction from Nishnawbe-Aski Nation, Aroland First Nation and other First Nations leaders, gaining the needed agreement with several of the First Nations groups are likely to be far harder to negotiate. Some of that is likely due to the Ontario government not including the First Nations leadership into the discussions from the start.

The McGuinty Liberals in order to fully serve the people of Northern Ontario are going to have to get over their love of bright cameras and photo-ops and start showing their work to the people. Otherwise it is likely the anger from Bill Mauro is more likely to be that of angry voters in the next provincial election.

James Murray
Chief Content Officer

Here is the full exchange from the Hansard at Queen’s Park:

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is to the Acting Premier. Today’s announcement about Cliffs Resources proves what New Democrats have been saying for quite a while: Ontario has the skilled workforce and the ability to process natural resources and create prosperity and good jobs right here in Ontario. But there are still questions we need answered, Speaker. Can the Acting Premier tell us whether all processing will be done here in Ontario, or will Cliffs still be shipping away partially processed resources to create jobs somewhere else?

Hon. Dwight Duncan: Today, Cliffs Natural Resources announced a $3.3-billion investment in northern Ontario. You said it wouldn’t happen. They announced that they’re going to build a chromite mine. They’re going to build a new transportation corridor and, yes, a $1.8-billion processing facility in Capreol, near Sudbury. You said that wouldn’t happen. This government is delivering for northern Ontario over your objections, over your inappropriateness. But most importantly, 1,200 aboriginal Ontarians will work in this facility as part of the deal.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Be seated, please.

Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Earlier today, the Minister of Northern Development said the government hasn’t quite worked out the details about the processing of the materials. Over here we think that’s a pretty important detail to be worked out, and thousands of good jobs rely on that detail. If the government doesn’t know today, when exactly will they know?

Hon. Dwight Duncan: The leader of the third party will be aware that because of the large nature of this, because of what the economists and accountants call the material nature of this, Cliffs had to disclose their $3.3-billion investment in northern Ontario. With processing of the natural resources happening in Ontario, with 1,200 First Nations Ontarians working at the site, Mr. Speaker, this is a big announcement for northern Ontario.

We will finalize those negotiations. Full transparency and accountability said we had to put this out, and Cliffs did. This is good news. You ought to be celebrating instead of nitpicking about something that is probably the most important announcement in northern—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you. Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Speaker, New Democrats have been very, very clear. If we’re going to build a prosperous and sustainable future, we need to be smart and focus on creating those good jobs.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Member for Peterborough, come to order.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Ontario’s natural resources should be used to create those good jobs and prosperity here in Ontario, not somewhere else—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan, come to order.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: —and the government support should be tied to that job guarantee. Do the McGuinty Liberals share that commitment, yes or no?

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan, second time.

Hon. Dwight Duncan: Mr. Speaker, let me remind the member opposite about the mining sector in Ontario: $3.5 billion in capital investment in 2011, the highest in Canada; over $1 billion in mining exploration—for the first time ever, last year we hit $1 billion; 27,000 direct jobs in metal mining; 50,000 related processing jobs; one quarter of all Canadian mining jobs.

This is a great day for northern Ontario. You ought to be celebrating a good deal for northerners, for aboriginals, for all Ontarians. It’s about a brighter future. It’s about confidence in our economy and the confidence that the private sector has as well in the future of Canada’s greatest province.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. New question.

MINING INDUSTRY

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My next question is back to the Acting Premier. I think he needs to actually be clear about the fact that there’s not quite a deal yet. We just want to make sure it’s the best deal that we can get for northern Ontario.

The support of First Nations is going to be absolutely vital if the Ring of Fire development is going to proceed, yet we learned today that yesterday, some First Nations were caught completely off guard by this announcement. Why didn’t the government engage in proper consultations with First Nations, Speaker?

Hon. Dwight Duncan: Mr. Speaker, 1,200 jobs for First Nations—First Nations have been involved in those discussions. I don’t know where she gets her information. Let me say this, Mr. Speaker: She ought to be celebrating this. It is good news for the north. It’s good news for aboriginal Ontarians. It’s good news for all Ontarians.

We’re getting the processing in Capreol: 450 construction jobs, 400 permanent jobs. We’re processing one quarter of all the minerals found in Canada, right here in Ontario. Our mining sector is leading the way as we move back to balance in this province, as we move back to a stronger and better future for all Ontarians, most importantly aboriginal Ontarians, who have an important role to play not only here but in Mattagami, in all the great developments in the north. We pledge to continue to work with them for a better future for their children as well.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Earlier today the Minister of Northern Development said that First Nations must be “front and centre.” Does the Acting Premier think that refusing to talk to First Nations until the day before an announcement is the definition of “front and centre”?

Hon. Dwight Duncan: Mr. Speaker, that is just simply not correct. There have been numerous discussions. This is a large opportunity for all Ontarians. We’re particularly proud that our aboriginal communities in the north have the opportunity to share in this enormous development, share in its prosperity. We’re proud of our government’s record in sharing resource revenues. I think of Mattagami, Mr. Speaker. We’re proud of our record in sharing of gaming revenues. I think of the new accord we came to terms with. There are always issues to be dealt with.

Instead of celebrating this, the third party wants to denigrate the deal, undermine it. Mr. Speaker, northerners are celebrating today. They see this as a great opportunity, and they know it was this government that delivered on the commitment to jobs and investment for northern Ontario.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Final supplementary.

Ms. Andrea Horwath: If we want to bring prosperity to the north, it needs to be there for everyone. If proper consultation does not happen, the jobs promised today could be lost to drawn-out disputes, and those people on that side should know that very well. They’ve had to deal with a lot of those drawn-out disputes. People who need the opportunity most in these situations could be the exact ones who end up falling behind.

Will the Acting Premier admit that they should have engaged First Nations from the very start? And are they ready now to roll up their sleeves and engage in meaningful consultation with First Nations to ensure their full participation?

Hon. Dwight Duncan: What I can say to our aboriginal brothers and sisters is this government is prepared to work with them day and night, as we have. This announcement today is great news for aboriginal Ontarians, it’s great news for northerners and it’s great news for all Ontarians. It’s about a brighter future for their children and our children. We need no lesson from that party on dealing with our First Nations, Mr. Speaker. We are proud of the relationships we have.

We have more to do, and we’ll continue to build on the success we’ve achieved, because there are still too many First Nations communities that don’t have adequate services, still too many First Nation children who aren’t getting an equal education. We pledge to continue to build on the successes we’ve announced today, to build a better—

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: You’ve been in government for almost a decade and you’ve done nothing.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Nepean–Carleton will come to order.

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