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Will the Ring of Fire, a 4,000-square-kilometre mineral find in the Far North, ever get off the ground?
It was supposed to be Ontario’s next big thing — a $50-billion lucky star. But after years of hype, the Ring of Fire is back on the backburner — far off in time and space.
Plans to build chromite mines in the middle of nowhere, 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, are going nowhere fast. The biggest private backer has backed out for now, complaining of government dithering and aboriginal dickering.
Will the Ring of Fire, a 4,000-square-kilometre mineral find in the far north, ever get off the ground? Improbably, two white-haired lawyers from Toronto are trying to restore the flame: They are two hired guns negotiating against each other to find common ground over this remote territory.
Bob Rae represents the First Nations of the Far North. After serving as an unpaid adviser since March, he quit last month as a Liberal MP to take it on full-time.
Frank Iacobucci represents the Ontario government at the table. The premier’s office recruited the former Supreme Court justice after learning it was up against Rae.
They both have street cred, but can they cut a deal? The two antagonists tell me — and each other — they can’t afford not to.
The stakes are high: Valuable deposits of rare chromite (used for stainless steel), platinum and palladium — with resource revenues that could help the First Nations and boost Thunder Bay’s ailing economy.
The risks are huge: Potential damage to a delicate eco-system extending to the shores of Hudson Bay.
And the costs of failure, in terms of time and money, will be high if native groups cannot be dissuaded from pursuing their case in the courts at every step.
Rae says 40,000 people living in a region without road access are hardly anti-development. They recognize that with their isolation has come impoverishment, addiction, and lack of education. But they are also mindful of how other mining projects haven’t lived up to their promise in hiring local aboriginals or leveraging revenues.
For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2013/07/11/ontarios_last_chance_to_revive_the_ring_of_fire_cohn.html