By Chris Marchand
Things are moving in the province’s Ring Of Fire development file, says Ontario’s Northern Development and Mines Minister.
Just where and how they will move will be the object of intense study over the near term, says NDM Minister Michael Gravelle who announced a $1 billion provincial commitment, Monday, to develop strategic all-season industrial and community infrastructure to access the proposed mining area in Ontario’s Far North — often touted as Ontario’s Oil Sands.
Gravelle confirms that a Ring Of Fire development corporation will now focus its efforts on a key decision on a transportation route to the chromite deposit. Two potential routes have been proposed: one pushing straight north from the CPR rail line to the mining area from Nakina and another favoured by mining company Noront which would use Hwy. 599 via Pickle Lake, known as the East-West route.
Consultant firm Deloitte has been commissioned to study the merits of each route and make a recommendation to the development corporation on a decision that could have enormous impacts on the communities through which a transportation corridor would pass.
“What is the best route that can achieve our goals in providing access to the Ring Of Fire?” said Gravelle. “What is the best route that can also provide access to the First Nation communities? You need to get the minerals to market, but you also need to recognize that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to provide access to communities that currently rely on diesel electricity generation. Can we get them off that? I think we can.”
That’s where Gravelle says the federal government should join the project to seize the opportunities to improve infrastructure and access in First Nations along the Ring Of Fire Route.
“This is a complex and challenging project,” said Gravelle. “It’s also an expensive one. We’re keen to make it clear that the federal government needs to join us, they need to match those dollars in order for us to continue that momentum I think we’ve established with the signing of the framework agreement and now this commitment from the province to invest so substantially in the project.”
The funding commitment arrives hot on the heels of a freshly signed Framework Agreement between the province and the Mattawa First Nations which Gravelle says was a key component.
“We recognize that for a project such as this in a remote part of the province where there has never been any development before, it’s very important to get this right,” he said. “There’s no question that the First Nations who will be most closely impacted by the Ring Of Fire need to be assured that there will be benefits for their communities if indeed the project moves forward.”