Ring of Fire – Miles before we dig (Part 2 of 2) – by Stan Sudol (Sudbury Star – January 7, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines estimates the value of the current known chromite deposits at US$50 billion over its 30-year lifespan. Noront Resources is developing a nickel/copper mine with a current 11-year lifespan.

The mineral deposit is “open at depth,” which means that even though official TSX regulations will not allow you to estimate the potential size of the orebody, most feel that mine will be in production for much longer.

The Ring of Fire mining camp will become bigger than the nickel mines of Voisey’s Bay, Nfld., and Raglan, Que. combined. It’s bigger than diamond deposits in the Northwest Territory or the uranium mining district in northern Saskatchewan.

We have just begun to explore this geologically rich mining region that will probably equal, if not exceed, the legendary trillion-dollar Sudbury basin. These developments, and potentially many more to follow, will significantly alleviate impoverished living conditions in the adjacent Aboriginal communities, as well as provide enormous economic benefits for the entire province.

But how are the First Nations going to build their capacity and take full advantage of these extraordinary job opportunities — and, most importantly, give their consent to sustainable development of their traditional territories — when many, if not most, of them are living in deplorable conditions?

We need to establish an “infrastructure and social Marshall Plan” with both levels of government working closely in partnership to upgrade to southern Ontario standards the third-world living conditions in these communities.

The original “Marshall Plan” was a large-scale American aid program that helped rebuild war-torn European economies at the end of The Second World War.

When the earthquake hit Haiti, Canadians were quite proud that our military was able to fly down the famous Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), who were able to have clean drinking water available within a short period of time.

Yet Marten Falls (pop. 282), which is under a boil-water advisory since 2007, has to fly in clean drinking water at an annual cost of about $300,000. Neskantaga (pop. 274), has been under a boil-water advisory since 1997.

Education and health care facilities are substandard, and per capita student expenditures are much lower than the general population. All the fly-in communities should have the funding to educate their students up to Grade 12.

Sending children to Thunder Bay or other communities to finish high school has mixed and, at times, tragic consequences.

Since 2000, seven students from remote reserves have died in Thunder Bay while attending high school. An inquest into these deaths will begin in the spring of 2013.

And the tragic legacy of the Aboriginal residential schools still haunt many people. If both levels of government are serious about “building capacity” in these communities, then education must become a top priority. Housing shortages and conditions are deplorable and must also be addressed.

In addition, the reserves suffer high levels of addiction problems especially the devastation brought on by OxyContin prescription drug abuse. These issues will require significant investments by both levels of government if we want to ensure healthy, job-ready community populations.

Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Both federal and provincial governments are more than capable of providing functioning infrastructure, and education and health-care services.

If Premier Dalton McGuinty felt he could waste a billion dollars to cancel two gas-fired power plants in southern Ontario in order to try to get a majority in the last election, then Ontario’s $15 billion deficit can not be brought up as a reason for inaction.

For the rest of this column, please go to the Sudbury Star website: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2013/01/07/miles-before-we-dig