The Liberal government took a beating Tuesday in the Ontario legislature over the lack of progress in the Ring of Fire exploration camp.
With Cliffs Natural Resources threatening to make a major decision on its stalled Black Thor chromite deposit in the James Bay region, Opposition MPPs went after Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government during Question Period on Tuesday.
More than a year after the Ohio-based mining giant named Sudbury was the best site for a ferrochrome refinery to process its Ring of Fire ore, Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha said “it has finally become clear that not only did this government not have a real deal with Cliffs, but the company is about to pull out of Ontario because of the mess this government has made of the Ring of Fire development plans.”
Mantha questioned the government’s leadership on addressing some outstanding project-related issues of transportation, electricity prices, the environment and consultation. “The Liberal government’s lack of action sends a bad message to companies who are willing to invest in Ontario.”
He called on the Ontario government to produce an action plan for the Ring of Fire.
In early September, an Ontario Mining and Lands Commissioner ruled against Cliffs, which was seeking access to build a road to its isolated deposit through the mining claims of KWG Resources, a heated rival in the camp.
Cliffs is appealing the decision to the Ontario Superior Court, but the company is demanding the government come up with a logistical solution.
Natural resources minister David Orazietti told the legislature that the government will not intervene in any legal dispute.
“What we are doing, though, is, we are prepared to work with any company who is coming forward to help develop the Ring of Fire and to create jobs in this area.”
Orazietti said the government is putting its faith in former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, Ontario’s lead in negotiations with First Nations, and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, representing the Matawa Tribal Council, to work through their process in moving the massive resource development forward.
“We understand that this is a sizable, very significant development in the province of Ontario, and it will take some time to get this right,” said Orazietti.
Parry Sound MPP Norm Miller accused the premier of being less-than-transparent on the mining file.
“We have a negotiator that you appointed, we have the Ring of Fire Secretariat you created, several ministries with overlapping responsibilities, and no real progress on the ground.”
Wynne responded that development can’t proceed until the proper social and training supports in place for Aboriginal people to take advantage of the coming economic benefits.
In alluding to her paddling adventures on the Attawapiskat River last summer, Wynne said her government won’t further move on this front until “enormous” environmental concerns about how infrastructure development will affect the complex and delicate landscape are addressed.