Ring of Fire is North’s future – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial (May 27, 2012)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

There is an amazing opportunity to embrace nation-building and put aside political differences. The Ring of Fire is waiting for us. It is remote and far from the roads and hydro poles that will be required to develop the deposit of chromite said to be the largest in North America and the key ingredient in stainless steel that is in everything from steak knives to prosthetic hip joints.

 From the earliest times of our planet as a molten mass, the Ring of Fire has sat patiently waiting to give up its riches.
 And all we have to do is get Ottawa, Ontario and First Nations leaders to sit at the same table and recognize this is a turning point for our nation. We have the chance to develop Northwestern Ontario and breathe a new life of prosperity into the entire region. There is plenty of wealth to go around.

 Cliffs Natural Resources plans to spend $3.3 billion to launch its Ring of Fire operations. That includes a chromite mine, a transportation corridor and $1.8 billion to build a smelter near Sudbury. If the private sector is ready to put this kind of cash up against the project, it starts to become mind-boggling how large they believe the pay-off will be.

 While it cannot be confirmed, and it was not shared with the media in the premier’s daily itinerary, Premier Dalton McGuinty says he spoke with Prime Minister Harper on Tuesday to ask how Ottawa might help with the development of this massive mining project. Well, OK, but surely this conversation must have started before last week, and why did the premier’s office keep it under wraps?

 Since its earliest days of discovery it should have been more than clear to everybody that every level of government needs to come to the table. First Nations spokespeople are already complaining that they were not properly consulted.

 After so many ridiculous standoffs, after so many ruined projects, can it truly be said we have not consulted our aboriginal neighbours before we go tramping through land they believe is their ancestral territory? What might be said is that consultation did take place which led to disagreement. It is hard to imagine that there was no consultation.

 Do we want a brighter economic future? Do First Nations chiefs want a better way of life for their communities? Do we all understand that it accomplishes nothing to focus on past wrongs and put roadblocks to the future?

 Let’s all put the posturing aside. Get on with this project as partners. There are enough riches and victories in this for all. A lot of people are waiting for someone to stand up and be a leader here. The future of the North depends on it. The future of Northern First Nations communities depends on it.

 This is not just a mine. This is an opportunity to build a stronger nation.

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