Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” mining project promises to be the economic equivalent of another oil sands, Treasury Board President Tony Clement says.
Clement, who was recently appointed the federal government’s point man on Northern Ontario development, said the giant mining project — which faces delays and opposition from some First Nations groups — would eventually expand to be worth $120 billion, when taking into account all the economic activity the planned mine and smelter would generate.
Clement made the comments at an editorial board meeting at The Huffington Post Canada on Thursday, during which he also discussed the controversy over the temporary foreign worker program, the Conservatives’ negative ads and what it means to be a politician in the age of social media (see below).
But it was his comments on the Ring of Fire — the name given to a massive planned chromite mining project some 400 kilometres north of Thunder Bay — that caught many at the meeting by surprise.
“You’re looking at $120 billion, right in line with the oil sands or some of these other major developments,” Clement said of the project, noting that other minerals besides chromite (an ingredient in stainless steel) have been found in the area, including nickel and copper.
“It has the potential to transform what was hitherto a very poor, underdeveloped area of Ontario and give people who live there, particularly First Nations people, a chance for a decent life,” Clement said.
But the project’s developer — Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources — recently delayed its target date to have the mine operational by a year, to 2016, and may delay the project further. The company said it was due to problems deciding on a location for the processing plant, but it may have had as much to do with weakening commodity prices.
Some First Nations groups have criticized the government and Cliffs for what they say is inadequate consultation with them, and activist groups have challenged what they call the government’s “bare-boned” environmental review of the project.
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