When someone mentioned the term ‘Ring of Fire’ in the past it was typically associated with the volcanic activity outlining the Pacific Ocean.
Being that this area is home to roughly 75% of the worlds active and dormant volcanoes, the name seemed fitting.
Over the last decade however the term Ring of Fire has been given a new postal code- the James Bay Lowlands of barren northern Ontario.
Major discoveries, including the Black Thor chromite deposit by KWG Resources Inc. (TSX.V: KWG) in 2006 (now being developed by Cliffs Natural Resources [TSX: CLF]) and Eagle’s Nest deposit by Noront Resources Ltd. (TSX.V: NOT) in 2007, have transformed the once ignored swamplands into what is quickly becoming one of the most active exploration regions in all of North America.
Nearly 40 junior mining companies have tied up over 30,000 mineral claims across a 5,000 square kilometer area of prospective Archean terrain buried by younger Paleozoic sediments, which is now known among investor circles as the new Ring of Fire.
The term ‘Ring of Fire’ was initially coined by former Noront President and CEO Richard Nemis who, being a lifelong Johnny Cash fan, fittingly named the region after the songwriter’s 1963 best hits album because of the rimmed geological structure of the region.
And while it has been long debated as to the references Cash was making in the song (most claim he was referring to his relationship with June Carter), there is no argument as to the potential the Ring of Fire region holds as a possible world-class mining district.
Geologists believe the region hosts chromite reserves on levels that could rival South Africa, where current annual production accounts for nearly 50% worldwide.
In addition to its massive chromium reserves the Ring of Fire region is also highly prospective for base metals, platinum grade elements (PGE) and even kimberlite deposits.
According to Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, nine base metal and five chromium deposits have been discovered to date. The Cliff and Noront deposits mentioned earlier are currently progressing through feasibility and environmental assessment stages.
These two potential mines alone could account for nearly $4 billion in capital investments over the next four years. Inevitably hundreds of millions of dollars in risk capital for grassroots exploration will follow suit.
But following the path to access this remote region of northern Ontario is anything but easy. There is literally no access to roads, rail or electricity for hundreds of kilometers in any direction.
Infrastructure remains almost non-existent and juniors have been forced to utilize helicopters and winter landing strips for small engine planes to access their exploration camps.
Year-round access roads and a north-south rail line have been proposed by Cliffs, Noront and KWG. Talks of support with the Ontario government for infrastructure development stalled nonetheless in January when Liberal Party member Kathleen Wynne became the new Premier.
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