Ring of Fire Bogging Down?

The Ring of Fire Presents Huge Opportunity for Ontario.
The Ring of Fire will impact First Nations in Northern Ontario.
The Ring of Fire Presents Huge Opportunity for Ontario.
The Ring of Fire will impact First Nations in Northern Ontario.

Ring of Fire Being Frozen in Ontario Ottawa Ice Storm?

THUNDER BAY – BUSINESS – The Ring of Fire is a major mining project that has the potential to make a massive impact across Northwestern Ontario. That potential has taken a number of hits over the past several years. Initially, Cliffs Natural Resourses, KWG Resources, and Noront Resources were the large players in the region. The Ring of Fire often is discussed for its huge chromite deposit potential. There are of course other minerals in the Ring of Fire, nickel being one of those minerals.

Last January, Cliffs Natural Resources pulled their camps out and left the Ring of Fire in a physical presence. More recently, Cliffs is stating that they don’t think it is possible for the project to actually happen in the next half century.

The Ring of Fire presents an opportunity for Canada, for Ontario, and for First Nations. Right now that project is in effect moving far slower than business would like it to move.

Relations Between Ontario and Ottawa Chilly at Best

Part of this appears to be an ongoing impasse between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. A few weeks ago, the Premier wrote the Prime Minister expressing that December 5th marked the one year anniversary of their last meeting. There appears to be a level of ice in the relationship between the PM and the Premier thick enough to safely drive a transport truck over.

Earlier in December, speaking in Markham Ontario, the Prime Minister poured ice water over requests from Premier Wynne for a meeting.

“We all know that the government of Ontario has some pretty significant challenges. I would encourage the government of Ontario to focus on those things, not on confrontation.”

“What we’ve done at the federal level is we’re balancing our budget, we’re cutting taxes and we’re delivering more services. We think this is the direction the people of Ontario and the people of Canada want. I would encourage the government of Ontario to follow that direction,” added the Prime Minister.

That chilly relationship appears, at times, to have a trickle down effect on other Ministers.

Ontario is in for a $1 billion dollar contribution to the Ring of Fire
Ontario is in for a $1 billion dollar contribution to the Ring of Fire

Minister Gravelle Seeks Meeting with Minister Rickford

Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle has written Minister Greg Rickford recently. Minister Gravelle wrote, “I am writing in follow up to recent correspondence between Prime Minister Harper and Premier Wynne . As you maybe aware, in a September 16, 2014 letter to the Prime Minister, Premier Wynne outlined a number of important intergovernmental priority areas, including the Ring of Fire (ROF), and requested a meeting to discuss these issues of importance to Ontario in more detail.

“In response, Prime Minister Harper encouraged Premier Wynne to work with the responsible federal ministers to make further progress in their areas over the coming year.

“On this basis I am writing to you to request a meeting at your earliest convenience to discuss the ROF and the importance of a strong federal role in ensuring that this development can proceed and its economic benefits for Ontario, First Nations and Canada can be realized.”

The issues between the Ontario and Canadian governments appear to be a combination of political direction, and personalities. That could include a cup of political ideology in the recipe that is making the end result for the Ring of Fire a more bitter recipe for Northwestern Ontario.

Some of the good going on in the Ring of Fire include the Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance (RoFATA) which saw the federal government invest money into providing Matawa First Nations members with the training they would require to be gainfully employed in the mining sector. However with the slow progress, even with the training, those students are not finding jobs.

Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good?

The Ontario Government, guided by Minister Gravelle have, for a long time stated “We must get the Ring of Fire right”.

That of course takes time.

Time however is something governments likely have far more of than business. All of the good intentions of government won’t generate revenue for the mining companies.

Minister Gravelle is now left with the task of seeking a meeting with federal Minister Rickford.

“As has been acknowledged by yourself and other members of your government,” wrote Minister Gravelle, “The ROF represents a tremendous opportunity to realize positive benefits for both the Ontario and Canadian economy. Our government has been clear in its desire to have the federal government match the $1 billion commitment that Ontario has made towards strategic transportation infrastructure in the ROF. Ontario has a clear plan for supporting development that is centered on creating the necessary conditions for private sector investment and community partnerships”.

The federal government appears to be looking at the Ontario promise of funds as either unsuitable, or not likely to be actually delivered.

This impasse is happening, and seemingly, left on the sidelines are the mining companies who are watching the value of their investment slowly drip down the drain.

Activity in Northwestern Ontario’s mining sector needs more action. Without the active engagement of governments, it is likely that getting the Ring of Fire going will take a lot longer than proponents will be able to wait.

James Murray

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