Getting the Ring of Fire Right is Complicated
THUNDER BAY – The Ring of Fire mining opportunities are massive. However the efforts to “Get it right,” as Minister Michael Gravelle has repeatedly stated are causing those efforts to come under fire.
The New Democrats are accusing the Wynne Government of only governing by ‘Press Release’.
“The announcement that outside consultants have been brought in to guide the Ring of Fire Development Corporation is a stark reminder of the Liberal government’s inability to spur development in the mining sector”, charges NDP Northern Development and Mines Critic Michael Mantha.
“The Liberal government continues to govern by press release; all talk no action,” continued Michael Mantha, the MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin. “This latest announcement by Mining Minister Michael Gravelle further proves that this government is determined to create jobs anywhere but in the actual mining sector. We now see consultant companies profit while the mining companies are left on the sidelines and First Nations suffer.”
Federal Government Demanding Details
During Friday’s announcement, Minister Gravelle commented that he would like to have seen action by the Federal Government on the Ring of Fire in the federal budget.
Federal Minister Greg Rickford states, “Economic Action Plan 2014 reaffirmed our government’s commitment to the new Building Canada Plan. We look forward to the Government of Ontario identifying its priority infrastructure projects under Building Canada, including those projects related to the Ring of Fire”.
“We also look forward to Ontario providing the Government of Canada with details on the proposed Development Corporation,” adds the Kenora MP and Minister responsible for the Ring of Fire. “Our Government believes that the Ring of Fire is a legacy resource development project with the potential to contribute significantly to the economic future of Northern Ontario”.
Ring of Fire Development Corporation
Last November, the Liberal government announced the creation of a Ring of Fire Development Corporation.
On Friday, Minister Gravelle announced that consulting firm Deloitte LLP would be brought in to guide the establishment of the corporation.
“We know that collaborating with our partners is vital to developing the Ring of Fire,” stated Minister Gravelle. “That is why our government is committed to driving progress through the development corporation and that is why I am so pleased that we are getting significantly closer to a historic agreement on a regional framework with the Matawa First Nations”.
“We remain committed to making a significant investment to support infrastructure needs in the region, but we need partners to come together so that decisions can be made,” added Gravelle. “There is shared opportunity and shared interest in this incredible $60 billion deposit and I am confident that infrastructure priorities can come together. That is the work the development corporation will drive and certainly as one of the partners, that is the work we are eager to see happen.”
At the initial announcement, the Minister of Northern Affairs stood alone making the announcement which came just before Cliffs Natural Resources announced the company is suspending operations in the Ring of Fire.
The Ring of Fire has faced several serious challenges. Some of those challenges have come from what could now be called over-ambitious statements by some of the politicians in the area. Claims at one point of up to 50,000 new jobs have now been scaled back to 5000 jobs.
One of the key components to success is ensuring that jobs in the Ring of Fire are jobs for people in Northwestern Ontario, and in particular for people in the First Nations communities in the mining zone.
In Thunder Bay in October, Minister Rickford spoke of the importance of being tasked with the responsibility for the Ring of Fire. Earlier announcements by the Minister made in Thunder Bay were on supplying funding for Matawa First Nations to help train 260 individuals for careers in mining.
Market conditions, combined with the environmental process, Aboriginal relations, and the relationships with both provincial and federal governments are all going to have to come together for success.
“It’s clear the Liberals have moved nowhere on this file since last year, and have now retained an outside consultant firm to advise them on what should have been done years ago,” said Mantha. “Once again we see the government announcing a plan to make a plan to make a plan. Industry, as we have seen, are packing up and leaving, taking their investment dollars and good jobs elsewhere.”
Despite repeatedly touting the national significance of the Ring of Fire, the government has failed to produce any real development. While Premier Wynne met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the Ring of Fire, she was unable to secure any funding for the development in the new federal budget.
Industry and area First Nations alike are continuing to grow frustrated by the lack of leadership and action by the Liberal government. Mining companies have spent millions of dollars in exploration, but progress has been stalled by the government’s lack of action.
“Liberals have continued to put Northern Ontario on the back burner. Industry is suffering, transportation services have been lost, and Northerners are feeling ignored,” explained Mantha. “Despite their claims, this Liberal government continues to neglect the needs and priorities of Northerners, First Nations and industry.”