Provincial body pushes Ring of Fire – by Mary Katherine Keown (Sudbury Star – November 9, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The provincial government announced Friday the formation of a corporation to push forward the development of the Ring of Fire, which will be launched immediately.

It will bring together First Nations communities, mining companies and government representatives, and will “develop, construct, finance, operate and maintain infrastructure supporting access to strategic resources in the Ring of Fire,” according to a Ministry of Northern Development and Mines statement.

Michael Gravelle, minister of Northern Development and Mines, and MPP for Thunder Bay and Superior North, argued the development of sustainable infrastructure is essential to the success of the project.

“People need to get in to work and products need to get out to the global market,” he indicated in a media release. Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk welcomed Friday’s announcement.

“I am pleased Minister Gravelle took my lead and stepped up by getting everyone to the table to resolve the outstanding issues,” she said in a media release. “It is imperative that we work together on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create jobs and growth.”

Matichuk previously called on the province to address outstanding issues, including the proposed north-south transportation corridor.

Cliffs Natural Resources of Cleveland wants to ship chromite ore from the Ring of Fire to a smelter to be built in Capreol, creating up to 500 jobs. Chromite is used to harden steel.

Premier Kathleen Wynn addressed the importance of the Ring of Fire in a letter Thursday to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“In September, the Honourable Greg Rickford, your government’s lead minister for the Ring of Fire, said in reference to development of the region: ‘Our government recognizes the important role the mining sector plays in creating jobs, attracting investment and strengthening not only the economy of Northern Ontario, but also of the country, which is why we are committed to creating the conditions that will enable the industry to continue to flourish’,” she wrote. .

The Ring of Fire is estimated to be worth $60 billion.

Wynne appointed in July Frank Iacobucci as Ontario’s lead negotiator in discussions with the chiefs of the Matawa Tribal Council, which will address environmental protection and monitoring, resource revenue sharing, social and economic supports, and infrastructure development.

“Using a development corporation model to advance infrastructure development will ensure First Nations can participate in the governance and use of the transportation infrastructure,” Iacobucci stated. “It will further support work already underway to promote meaningful participation in the Ring of Fire development.”

Stan Sudol, a Toronto-based mining analyst, argued the federal government has been stagnant and called for action.

“Until now, the federal government has been doing a considerable amount of ‘talking’ but not much financial ‘walking.’ It’s time the Harper government put some significant dollars on the table to help Ontario, which has been struggling financially over the past few years, to deal with the billion-dollar demands for infrastructure needed to move this massive project forward,” Sudol told The Star.

While the development corporation is good news, Sudol cautioned that global markets remain weak.

“(This) gives us some ‘breathing room’ to make the right decisions and build up the necessary capacity in First Nations communities in a timely manner,” he said.

The capital investment required to develop the infrastructure could be as high as $1 billion, while the cost to connect Ring of Fire communities to all-season transportation roads is estimated to be in the range of $1.25 billion. Wynne indicated Ontario is “prepared to make a substantial contribution” and expects the feds to match provincial dollars.

Sudol warned the proposed smelter in Greater Sudbury is not a foregone conclusion.

“While Cliffs still indicates a ferrochrome furnace will be built in Capreol, we really should be prepared for the possibility the facility may go elsewhere because of changes in the project dynamics, due to shorter transportation routes, a Great Lakes port location and/or the availability of other sources of energy,” he said.

Cliffs Natural Resources did not return The Star’s inquiries.

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