Archive | Mining Railway and Road Issues

Look to public-private partnerships to build infrastructure for Ring of Fire – by Joseph Quesnel and Kenneth Green (Thunder Bay chronicle-Journal – March 1, 2017)

Joseph Quesnel is a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute.Kenneth Green is senior director of natural resource studies at the Fraser Institute.

It has been 10 years since the discovery of a massive chromite deposit in Northern Ontario, which could be a game changer for the region’s economy. But despite this potential, the developers are still as far away from bringing a mine into operation today as they were a decade ago.

Known as the Ring of Fire, the area is rich with deposits of chromite — which is used in the production of stainless steel — nickel and copper.

The possible upside of the region’s economic potential is tremendous. At one point, then Conservative treasury board president Tony Clement called the Ring of Fire an economic equivalent of the Alberta oil sands given the projected investment required. That may be an exaggeration of course, but the deposit nevertheless has the potential for thousands of jobs for several decades of mining. Continue Reading →

Northeast B.C. mining restarts stall because CN Rail hasn’t maintained tracks for shipping coal – by Andrew Kurjata (CBC News British Columbia – February 06, 2017)

Tumbler Ridge mayor says community is being ‘held hostage’ by CN

Coal mines are restarting in Tumbler Ridge, but companies can’t ship to market because train lines maintained by CN Rail have fallen into disrepair. Mayor Don McPherson says it appears the railway stopped looking after the track sometime in 2015 after the community’s last coal mine shut down.

“I guess the board of directors for CN Rail decided that they didn’t need to maintain the rail line,” he said. “It came as a surprise to me.” The discovery comes as there is renewed interest in coal from the northeast B.C. community.

Last year, Conuma Coal purchased three of the mines and announced plans to rehire many of the 700 people who lost their jobs two years ago.The Brûlé mine, which ships coal by truck to a nearby rail facility, is already operational. Continue Reading →

Ontario Northland bounces back after dodging a government bullet – by John Michael McGrath ( – January 27, 2017)

There’s nothing like a near-death experience to focus the mind. Just ask the people at Ontario Northland, the provincially owned company that runs trains and buses across the province’s northeast.

It’s been nearly five years since then-finance minister Dwight Duncan introduced an austerity budget that would have privatized Ontario Northland’s operations, sending shock waves through the north and reinforcing attitudes among local residents that the Liberals simply didn’t understand the needs of the region.

Formally called the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC), the agency has a long history. Founded in 1902, its rail expansion into northern Ontario was crucial to the settling of towns like Cochrane, and, after World War I, it built what is still the only year-round connection to Ontario’s James Bay shore. Continue Reading →

Growing impatient, Nahanni Butte starts building own road to mine – by Mark Rendell (CBC News North – January 30, 2017)

After waiting nearly three years for the approval of an all-season road into the heart of Nahanni National Park, the Nahanni Butte Dene Band began cutting its own path last week. The proposed road to the Prairie Creek zinc mine has been limping through the Mackenzie Valley Review Board’s environmental assessment process since mid-2014.

“We’ve been waiting well over two years for this so-called permitting process to give the green-light for the road,” said Mark Pocklington, the communities senior administrative officer. “And, in this process, the review board and others have put demands on further and further studies.”

Growing impatient, Nahanni Butte Chief Peter Marcellais gave the go-ahead to community members to start cutting a trail across Indian Affairs Branch land — set aside by the federal government for the band’s residential use — near the community. Continue Reading →

Warm weather causes limited winter road use on James Bay coast – by Sarah Moore (Timmins Daily Press – January 27, 2017)

While January’s mild temperatures may have been welcomed by some, it has been a curse for the First Nation communities that rely on cold, ice and snow to create their winter road system.

As of Monday, none of the roads in the six corridors in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation territory were open officially to full-load commercial traffic and only a handful of those roads were open to light vehicle traffic. Even then, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the conditions of some these roads were far from ideal.

“I know that in speaking with Grand Chief Jonathon Solomon (of the Mushkegowuk Council), that the east corridor along the Coast is open to light traffic, but it’s travel at your own risk kind of a deal,” he explained. “But there is no heavy traffic going up North anywhere.” Continue Reading →

Since ice roads won’t stay frozen, we need to get serious about building permanent roads in the far north – by John Michael McGrath ( – January 24, 2017)

OPINION: More than 30 Ontario First Nations communities rely on winter ice roads to truck in everything from fuel to building supplies. Warm winters are jeopardizing that lifeline, and we need an alternative

The one thing that’s supposed to be reliable about Ontario’s far north is cold winters. But increasingly, warm spells in winter have delayed the opening of the ice roads that connect 31 remote First Nations communities spread across the bulk of the province’s north, from the shore of James Bay to the far northwest.

This year, while grading and packing of snow and ice clearing has started in some locations, not a single one of the province’s ice roads has opened to commercial traffic, and only half a dozen have opened for personal vehicle use.

In the province’s northeast, the Wetum Road connecting the Moose Cree First Nation and other communities farther north to the provincial highway system won’t open until next Monday at the earliest. Continue Reading →

Coal, ore plunge hits St. Lawrence Seaway volumes – by Eric Atkins (Globe and Mail – January 17, 2017)

The amount of cargo sailing on the St. Lawrence Seaway has sunk to the lowest levels in seven years amid a plunge in demand for coal and iron ore, two of waterway’s main commodities.

Total freight volumes for 2016 fell by 3 per cent to 35 million tonnes, led by 10-per-cent drops in coal and 14-per-cent declines in iron ore, according to the year-end figures released by the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. on Monday morning.

The slowdown comes even as grain shipments continued their climb, and the 3,700-kilometre route enjoyed its longest shipping season since 2008, due to a mild spring that allowed ships to begin sailing on March 21. Continue Reading →

Federal funding for new Tlicho all-season road a boost for Fortune’s Nico project – by Henry Lazenby ( – January 13, 2017)

VANCOUVER ( – Federal funding for up to 25% of the construction costs for a new 97 km all-season road connecting Highway 3 to the community of Whati, in the Northwest Territories, augers well for project developer Fortune Minerals’ endeavours to secure financing for its nearby Nico cobalt/gold/bismuth/copper project.

“With cobalt and gold prices firming, and greater certainty of an all-season road, Fortune is well-positioned to secure the financing needed to begin construction of the Nico mine,” Fortune VP of finance and CFO David Massola commented Thursday.

The Tlicho all-season road (TASR) will be funded in part through the federal administered P3 Canada Fund. Procurement of the TASR – through a government of the Northwest Territories public–private partnership – will start with the release of the ‘request for qualifications’ in February, and will be followed by a ‘request for proposal’ and bids from private industry to provide combined finance and construction. Continue Reading →

Coal is still king for Canadian railways despite Liberal government’s energy plant – by Kristine Owram (Financial Post – November 24, 2016)

Despite the phasing out of coal-fired power plants, railways expect to ship more coal, not less, for the foreseeable future.

The demand is being driven by a rebound in the price of steel-making coal and U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s promise to revive the industry there. Since most of the coal shipped by Canadian railways is either metallurgical and destined for Asian markets, or thermal and shipped within the U.S., the Liberal government’s intention to shut down this country’s coal-burning energy plants by 2030 will have little impact.

So as Canada phases out its coal-fired power plants, Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. are seeing their coal volumes bounce off second-quarter lows and should continue to see carloads increase for the foreseeable future. Continue Reading →

Infrastructure bank may be boost Northern miners need, says national association (CBC News North – November 22, 2016)

The Mining Association of Canada hopes a newly-announced Canada Infrastructure Bank could help the future of mining in the North. “I’m cautiously optimistic about what the opportunity is that this infrastructure bank presents,” said Brendan Marshall, a vice-president with the association who is in Whitehorse for the Yukon Geoscience Forum.

Marshall says the cost of mining in the North is often more than double what a similar project would cost in the south because of isolation, projects off-grid and lack of infrastructure. “This could be a milestone or a bench mark from which years hence we look back and see that this decision has born significant fruit for the North, that’s my hope,” he said.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank was announced by federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau earlier this month during a fall economic update. According to Ottawa, the bank aims “to provide innovative funding and financing for infrastructure projects and help more projects get built in Canada.” Continue Reading →

Network battling to restore passenger rail in northeastern Ontario – by PJ Wilson (North Bay Nugget – November 23, 2016)

Every person in Ontario pays $155.62 a year to support the GO trains and buses that operate in southern Ontario. Meanwhile, the provincial subsidy for the now-defunct Northlander passenger train cost 86 cents for every man, woman and child in the province, according to Eric Boutilier.

Boutilier, a member of the Northern and Eastern Ontario Rail Network, said Tuesday it is possible to bring passenger rail service back to northeastern Ontario. It’s going to take a fight to do so, he said, but it’s a fight that’s well worth the effort.

“In Northern Ontario, we have very limited options for transportation,” Boutilier said. “If you want to get anywhere, you have to take the highway.” But particularly in winter, he said, that option is not always do-able. Continue Reading →

‘No roads, no problem’: How blimps could help northern Quebec’s miners overcome their infrastructure woes – by Kristine Owram (Financial Post -November 21, 2016)

Who needs roads or railways when you have blimps? A small Montreal-based mining exploration company called Quest Rare Minerals Ltd. thinks it may have found a solution to the lack of transportation infrastructure in Canada’s North: a blimp-like hybrid airship made by Lockheed Martin Corp. that can land virtually anywhere for a fraction of the cost of a regular airplane.

Quest plans to use a fleet of seven Lockheed airships to transport supplies and personnel to its Strange Lake mine on the boundary between Quebec and Labrador, 1,100 kilometres northeast of Quebec City. Once the mine is up and running, it will also use the helium-filled airships to transport ore out of the mine as far as the town of Schefferville, Que., where it can be loaded onto railcars.

Residents of northern Quebec shouldn’t expect to see the hybrid airships, which resemble a giant piece of meringue, floating overhead anytime soon. Continue Reading →

Cochrane constructing intermodal terminal for mining needs – by Lindsay Kelly (Northern Ontario Business – November 15, 2016)

The Town of Cochrane is embarking on a $1.4-million multimodal transportation project that will make it a hub for industry transportation services in the North.

Initially, the Cochrane Intermodal Terminal, currently being constructed at the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) yard in Cochrane, will provide hauling services to Detour Gold, but future plans have the town tapping into forestry and agriculture as well.

J.P. Ouellette, CAO of the Town of Cochrane, said the benefits for the town are innumerable. “It’s helpful for local industry, it supports the ONTC and rail jobs, it’s a better end use for transportation, reducing greenhouse gases, and it’s less traffic for our roads,” he said. “So, it’s win-win all around, and we’re quite pleased and excited about the whole idea and the opportunity.” Continue Reading →

Lockheed’s hybrid airships gets launch [mining] customer in Canada – by Allison Lampert (Reuters U.S. – November 16, 2016)

OTTAWA – The operator of Lockheed Martin Corp’s (LMT.N) blimp-like hybrid airships on Wednesday announced its first customer, a Canadian mining company that expects to lease seven of the heavy-lift cargo aircraft for a decade starting in 2019.

Quest Rare Minerals Ltd (QRM.TO) will lease the airships from operator Straightline Aviation in the first commercial use deal for the airships, which are filled mostly with helium, said Hybrid Enterprises LLC, which sells the aircraft for Lockheed.

Quest signed a memorandum of understanding with Straightline on the sidelines of a Canadian aerospace conference. The deal between Straightline and Quest is valued at US$850 million, including fuel costs, over the 10-year period. Continue Reading →

Few details on Ring of Fire road decision – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – November 2, 2016)

Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle dropped few hints as to when the province expects to roll out plans for a Ring of Fire road access corridor, saying only it will happen “soon.”

After opening a government-hosted Mining Innovation Summit in Sudbury on Nov. 1, Gravelle said in a media scrum that the province remains “keen to see the project move forward” as discussions continue with four James Bay-area First Nations over a completed community service corridor study that will provide the basis for a decision on the road’s routing.

“It’s difficult to put timelines on decision-making other than to say that we are committed to carrying on that work. The conversations are at a very high level with the Matawa First Nations and we look forward to having something to report to you soon.” Continue Reading →