Minister [Gravelle] Tries to Calm Fears for Ring of Fire – by Chelsey Romain (Timmins Daily Press)

This article was originally published in the Timmins Daily Press on January 11, 2011. Timmins is the second largest mining community in Ontario with a population of about 45,000.

For an extensive list of articles on this mineral discovery, please go to: Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mineral Discovery

“We consider it an absolute priority that the greatest value-added opportunities take place with the Ring of Fire development. That very much includes the processing facility be in the North.” (MNDMF Minister Michael Gravelle – Jan/11/2011)

“We are very, very concerned about plans for the Ring of Fire because, quite frankly, there doesn’t seem to be any plan. There doesn’t seem to be a plan that involves Northern communities or the First Nation people who live up in the region.” MP Charlie Angus (NDP — Timmins-James Bay – Jan/11/2011)

Vows ore won’t go to China

The Far North’s Ring of Fire project has been hailed as the next great thing in mining, bigger than the Porcupine Camp and Sudbury’s ore body combined.

But there is fear among those wanting to benefit from the project that Northern Ontario, more specifically the Northeast and Timmins, will be left out, while foreign countries reap the rewards.

A recent comment from Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees president William Brehl that ore mined from the Ring of Fire could be shipped to China for processing has political leaders saying discussion on the subject needs to take place now.

“We are very, very concerned about plans for the Ring of Fire because, quite frankly, there doesn’t seem to be any plan,” said MP Charlie Angus (NDP — Timmins-James Bay). “There doesn’t seem to be a plan that involves Northern communities or the First Nation people who live up in the region.”

Up for debate is whether or not the companies involved with the project will decide to have a processing plant in the North. Stating Ontario’s lack of competitiveness versus other provinces as well as other countries, there is concern that a processing plant could be built elsewhere, most specifically China.

“You ship it to China, you get it cheaper, you don’t have to meet any of the bare bones environmental standards and you’re at your market,” Angus said. “But the ore is here, so if companies are here because we have extremely profitable ore bodies, because we have an extremely highly qualified work force, if they want to mine in China, well then go to China and mine.

“The fact is they are mining here, so there is some obligation to do it right and processing is key to that.”

But Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Michael Gravelle said while there may have been a time when it wasn’t as likely the processing facility would be in the North, that is not the case now.

Having had meetings with several of the companies, which include Cliffs Natural Resources, Noront Resources Ltd. and KWG Resources, involved in the project, Gravelle is confident the plant will find a home in a Northern Ontario community.

“We certainly have had discussions with a number of the companies and I think its public knowledge they are currently evaluating a variety of locations and options for its processing facility,” said Gravelle. “They have indicated their preference is to locate in Northern Ontario.”

Recognizing some of the cost concerns, Gravelle said the provincial government is making it more affordable for major industrial companies to do business in Ontario. He stated there is a very attractive tax framework in place for attracting new business, possibly one of the most attractive in all of North America. By 2012, Gravelle said, the combined provincial/federal corporate tax rate for manufacturing will be at 25%, which is 8% above the most competitive of US states and about 11% above the Great Lakes states. Having brought forward the Northern Ontario Industrial Energy rate, he said the province has been able to provide significant saving for major resource-based companies in the North.

“One of the things we’ve made very clear is we want to see the greatest value added opportunities for this particular project,” Gravelle said, “which includes wanting to see the processing facility located in the province, and clearly in Northern Ontario.”

Which community exactly will become the site of any processing plants is still up for grabs. Several communities across the North have expressed an extreme interest in being that host community. In his comments, Brehl said the recently closed Xstrata Kidd Creek Metallurgical Site could be re-opened.

Angus, MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP — Timmins-James Bay) and Mayor Tom Laughren stated the site would be optimal because of the gas, water and rail already attached to the property, as well as existing partnerships with First Nation communities.

“I think Timmins is better situated than most,” said Bisson. “We have the workforce to do this, we have the facility, we’re a heck of a lot further than most.

“What’s lacking is commitment on behalf of the province that those resources are processed in Ontario.”

Xstrata hasn’t decided what will come of its existing infrastructure at the met site, and there is currently work being done to discover alternate uses for the site. But Angus said it would be a great loss if the company were to tear it down.

“If you’re going to allow a smelter of the scale and capacity of Kidd Creek to just be taken apart, who is going to build another one?” questioned Angus. “So before we get too far down the road on the Ring of Fire, I think the obvious thing to say is where are the main communities that should be at the table and what is the plan.”

Laughren said its natural for each community to want to benefit from whatever comes of the Ring of Fire, but he wants the region to benefit in any way possible. While it would be great to have the processing plant and concentrator, Laughren would like to see manufacturing jobs as well .

“I, personally, believe, we should have everything from the mining to the processing to stainless steel in Northern Ontario from the Ring of Fire,” he said. “We know that where it is located, rail is going to be key.

“When we look at Ontario Northland Rail, when it was first developed in 1903, it was to develop the North and we think that needs to continue.”

Gravelle said more about potential locations for a processing plant, likely to come from Cliffs Natural Resources, would be known within the month, as a base project description is expected to be released.

As not only the Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, but also MPP for the Thunder Bay riding, he said there has been pressure to help that city gain as much benefit as possible.

For the rest of the article, please go to the Timmins Daily Press website: