Delay may cause fundamental rethinking [Ring of Fire] – by John R. Hunt (Sudbury Star – June 19, 2013)

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

The mine supply business is an important segment of the Northern Ontario economy. The news that Cliffs Natural Resources has temporarily halted its environmental assessment work in the Ring of Fire will not spread any joy.

Some analysts say Cliffs is just playing a card in a complicated poker game. The environmental assessment work is being done in compliance with both federal and provincial assessment acts. The company may be trying to cut through some of the tangled red tape that government departments inevitably create.

According to its website, Cliffs was hoping to get into production by 2016, which means that an incredible amount of work must be done within a comparatively short time.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli pointed out recently other mining companies are certainly interested in the Ring of Fire region, so if Cliffs does not do something, others will.

Cliffs and the provincial government must come to an agreement with one or more First Nations in the region who may not be very pleased with the prospect of losing some of their traditional hunting grounds.

According to two reports, the new mine will be an open-pit operation. This will leave a much bigger footprint than an underground mine. All mines generate an immense amount of finely ground waste rock or tailings. A gold mine might grind a ton of rock to recover one or two ounces of gold.

No doubt the environmentalists will be watching closely. In the early days at Cobalt, tailings were dumped into any convenient lake. No one wants a repetition of the Sudbury moonscape, which is now being greened with the planting of millions of trees.

To be fair, caution is required on the part of the province. The Ring of Fire will stimulate the economy and create a great many jobs but it must be done right or it could create lasting problems.

The delay may also cause some fundamental rethinking. The intention is to construct a highway through the wilds of Northwestern Ontario to reach the Ring of Fire. How the road will survive the haulage of thousands of tons of equipment and supplies is anyone’s guess.

The decision to build a refinery near Sudbury may yet be known as the Bartolucci blooper.

It might even explain why the Ontario government may be having second thoughts about divesting itself of the ONR.

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