Future may be here in a week [Ring of Fire] – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial (February 11, 2010)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario. This editorial was originally published on February 11, 2010.

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

IT WOULD be difficult to overstate the importance of the so-called Ring of Fire, a huge, horseshoe-shaped geological structure in the James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario. In just 30 months it has gone from a single drill hole to the probable jewel in the crown of a regional economic recovery.

The nearest communities to the ring of high-grade nickel-copper-platinum-palladium, chromite, vanadium and gold are the First Nations of Marten Falls and Webequie which are naturally angling to share the wealth. Much has been done to achieve that objective but lately, it appears the First Nations are not happy. An early partnership between Marten Falls and Noront Resources, the area’s key exploration company, for example, came apart this winter when the band council authorized members to block Noront planes from landing near their camps.

Everyone in Northern Ontario – most particularly First Nations anywhere near mineral deposits – must fervently hope that Marten Falls and Webequie don’t send companies packing from the Ring of Fire like another band further north did earlier. It cost Ontario taxpayers $5 million in company compensation, but the loss in this instance would be almost incalculable given the ring’s potential.

It all began in August 2007 when Noront discovered promising results at McFaulds Lake, just off the Attawapiskat River, 120 kilometers north of Marten Falls and announced that “all unnecessary communication from the field camp has been curtailed” and security measures were being implemented to control information.

The secret was too big to keep and, as one writer put it: “Within three days the Webequie Airport resembled Toronto’s Pearson International . . .”

At the heart of all this promise is chromite used to make chrome and stainless steel. Almost all North American production has its sources from imported Chinese ore or recycled scrap metal. There is no substitute for the metal and so its potential is virtually unlimited.

No wonder Marten Falls wants in. And in September of 2009, Noront announced that it had entered into negotiations for an exploration agreement (preceded by a compensation agreement for past work) “to develop a framework for carrying out mineral exploration work within the context of respect for the land, environment and First Nation traditional pursuits.”

Then-chief Chief Harry Baxter was “very pleased” with “discussions which will address our community’s interests and create business partnerships that build capacity and create lasting jobs for our people.”

Chief Baxter’s term ended with an election five days later that installed Chief Elijah Moonias who, apparently not satisfied by the negotiations, led the blockade. On Tuesday, the same day umbrella Matawa First Nations issued a hopeful Interim Minerals Measures Process, Moonias said the blockade could end one week from today if industry and government accept a memorandum of agreement to ensure specific First Nation involvements in the Ring of Fire.

It would appear the North may be close to a way past this impasse for the good of everyone who lives here. Good news indeed.