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Canfield: Infrastructure key for mining development

Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) President and Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield spoke to regional municipal leaders about the issues on NOMA’s agenda during the annual meeting of the Kenora District Municipal Association, Friday in Machin.
Photo by Chris Marchand

By Chris Marchand

With the prospects for the Ring of Fire mining project seemingly on ice these days, the president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association says playing the long game will be important to securing the region’s interests if and when the massive chromite mineral reserve is developed.

A proposed road access route through Pickle Lake using a portion of the Windigo Road (known as the East-West route) presents the best economic outcome for the Northwest and poses many opportunities to connect multiple First Nations to road access to grid electricity.

East of Lake Nipigon a north-south running route was once the preferred path by government and mining proponents despite offering little in the way of development for neighbouring First Nations.

While the province committed $1 billion to the development of an access route in 2014, little has been heard about what the province intends to do since.

“We’re not going to play the political game,” said Canfield. “Obviously, the opposition parties are going to keep complaining about it, but the Ring of Fire isn’t going to happen until we need the resources — and at this point in history, we don’t need the resources right now.”

Canfield says NOMA is working with mining company NorOnt – who have long lobbied for the east-west route. NorOnt hopes to be producing high grade nickel, copper and platinum from their Eagles Nest mine by 2020.

“NOMA has come on board with NorOnt saying, get the east-west tie because they’re the closest to moving on a project,”said Canfield. “Our bottom line is, it’s about the infrastructure. If you get the infrastructure into the communities, the rest will just follow naturally. This is the big thing we’re trying to tell government. Greenstone Gold — they don’t have the power there to run their mine. The same thing is happening in Red Lake. Our Energy Task Force has been screaming for upgrades for years and the government keeps on slowly doing nothing. It’s a big issue.”

Canfield says he’s optimistic that Canada may salvage parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the multi-lateral trade agreement. Canada’s mining sector had lauded the TPP as good for the industry, and Canfield hopes some variant of the deal could shake things up.

“We’re hoping that this could open a door for us,” said Canfield. “If you’re putting up walls and trade barriers then people are going to go looking for more friendly countries. People come to Canada because it’s a stable country, we have good practices, the best environmental guidelines in the world. With what’s going on in the States this could be an opportunity for our mining sector to flourish.”

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