TORONTO — So it seems the Ring of Fire (ROF) has fizzled — leaving only a burning sensation where it hurts.
The massive, ore-rich area in a remote part of northwestern Ontario is touted as the biggest economic boon to this province in 100 years.
It’s rich in palladium, platinum, nickel, diamonds and gold. Most importantly, it has the largest chromite deposit in North America — valued at an estimated $60 billion in economic development. After one of the major companies involved in its development pulled out Wednesday, the project now appears dead in the water.
Who’s to blame? Well, mostly a government that’s Toronto-centric, doesn’t get mining and doesn’t understand Northern Ontario.
Several years ago, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, responding to a question about mining giant Xstrats moving its giant Timmins smelter to Quebec, opined, “We cannot continue to make a living by pulling stuff out of the ground.”
Really? The economic impact of the Ring of Fire, is immense — to the whole province. The TMX is the largest mining exchange in the world by number of listings.
And he thought we couldn’t continue with mining? We can’t afford not to.
The government has bungled this development. First, they ignored the ROF. Then, once it was brought to their attention, they talked about it in their throne speech — but apart from blowing their own horn and pretending they were doing something, they ignored it.
“When a company of Cliffs’ stature, who’s been working very patiently in the province of Ontario, decides they have to cease operations on the largest chromite discovery ever found in North America, it sends a very bad signal to other mining companies in the province,” said Tory critic Norm Miller.
The Cliffs project was doomed by a ruling by the province’s lands and mines commissioner, who rejected the company’s plan to build a road rather than a railway to the mine. Another company with interests in the ROF, KWG, wants a rail link.
“An all-weather road was a logical first step,” Cleveland-based Cliffs’ spokesman Patricia Persico told me.
“(It would) provide important access as well as employment benefits to those surrounding communities,” she said.
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