Michael Gravelle is the Ontario M.P.P. for Thunder Bay – Superior North
There is very good reason for everyone in Northwestern Ontario to be excited about the growth of the mining sector in our part of the Province. Mineral exploration investments are at an all-time high and we can expect the opening of several new mines in the region to employ hundreds, if not thousands of people, which will drive the economy forward to levels we have not seen before. These opportunities are being embraced by First Nations and municipal governments all across the region as they seek to seize the long term benefits this renaissance in mining will provide.
There is no question that the project that has captured the most attention in Northwestern Ontario is the Ring of Fire, where an unprecedented level of investment is poised to bring economic benefits and jobs to thousands of people for many years to come.
While there are a number of companies making significant investments in this resource rich part of the Northwest, most of the public attention over the past year or so has been focused on Cliffs Natural Resources, a U.S. based firm that is eager to take the next major step forward in the development of a huge project; one that, if managed properly, will bring extraordinary long term economic benefits to many First Nations communities and municipalities across our region.
On May 9th Cliffs took that next step by announcing a potential $3.35 billion investment in this project. That included their business decision to locate a ferrochrome processing facility in Northeastern Ontario; a decision that deeply disappointed those who hoped they would chose a site in Northwestern Ontario for that facility. But, just as significantly, they announced that the mine itself, as well as the North-South transportation corridor would mean that two-thirds of the direct jobs created by the project would be in Northwestern Ontario, most significantly benefiting First Nations in the Ring of Fire, the municipality of Greenstone, and the City of Thunder Bay, which Cliffs envisions as the hub of its operations in Northwestern Ontario.
It is also worth noting that the direct jobs created, and the massive scope of this development will generate thousand of new indirect jobs, from the mining supply and services sector to transportation jobs as well as many other jobs associated with a development of this size.
As many of you will know, I chose to be in Thunder Bay on the day that this announcement was made, and I was pleased to be accompanied by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne. While I was certainly conscious that Cliffs decision to locate the smelter in Capreol would be received with great disappointment by all those attending the event, I was determined to speak about the long term unprecedented level of investment and jobs that would be created in Northwestern Ontario as a result of their commitment to this massive project. I was also very conscious of the reaction of many First Nations to the announcement. Their profound disappointment with the Cliffs decision on the site of the smelter was compounded by their assertion that appropriate consultation has not taken place.
To that, I can only say that, over the last two years, our government has heard clearly from our First Nations in the Ring of Fire that they want direct input on environmental issues associated with the project and that they demand greater participation in the economic opportunities for their community members as well as significant socio-economic support and regional infrastructure.
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