Developing the Ring of Fire Could Transform the Region – by Michael Gravelle (Huffington Post – October 7, 2013)

Michael Gravelle is the Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines

Approximately 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, in the James Bay Lowlands, sits an estimated $30-50 billion worth of untapped mineral resources. When developed, this exciting discovery will potentially transform the region, create thousands of jobs and enhance the future economic prosperity for Ontario.

Realizing the full potential of the Ring of Fire is an extremely complex undertaking, one that our government takes very seriously. We have to make sure that we get it right. This means making important investments in people, infrastructure and building the right business climate for successful development.

Our government has taken important steps to lay the ground work for the Ring of Fire development and we continue to work with aboriginal communities, municipalities and our industry partners to see smart, sustainable and collaborative development move forward in the region.

We are leveraging this groundwork and continuing to drive growth in “gateway” Ring of Fire communities, like Greenstone for example; supporting initiatives like the Grow Greenstone Expo, where businesses and individuals recently gathered to discover opportunities, build business relationships, and develop the skills needed for careers in the mining industry. These are the types of supports that will drive economic growth and will help Northerners, and the entire province, prepare for and realize the benefits of the Ring of Fire.

We are continuing to invest in crucial training and career awareness programs. To date, these programs have seen great success — more than 850 First Nations members have already successfully taken part. This is in addition to the Mining Essentials and Pre-Trades Training programs introduced by our government for young people in Webequie First Nation. We are also pleased to have a partnership with the Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services in Thunder Bay; currently, 29 First Nations members have completed the program and are preparing for jobs in our province’s mining sector.

Continued investments in infrastructure will also help ensure that transportation networks are expanded and modernized to get people into this vital region to work and get products out to the global market.

There’s no denying that there is tremendous opportunity with the Ring of Fire development. During the construction, mining, and transportation stage the Ring of Fire is expected to generate employment for approximately 1,700 people a year and, during operation, it is expected to generate direct and indirect employment of more than 5,000 people a year in Ontario. This will also include many indirect new jobs in the mining supply and services sector which is sure to continue its impressive growth. Ensuring these multi-generational benefits are maximized will remain a priority.

Our government believes that true success depends on active participation in this exciting development by all partners.

We are continuing focused conversations with all companies involved in this tremendous development and remain encouraged by the work underway.

Our government is also continuing work on a historic, community-driven regional negotiation process with the Matawa First Nations — whose traditional lands encompass the Ring of Fire. Bob Rae was selected as the negotiator to represent the Chiefs of the Matawa Tribal Council and Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci will negotiate on behalf of the province of Ontario.

We are taking a smart, sustainable and collaborative approach. Certainly the recent decision of the Chiefs of the Matawa Tribal Council to formally withdraw their request for a Federal Judicial Review is a testament to the process that our government has established and signals a level of confidence not only in the work of Mr. Rae and Mr. Iacobucci, but a broader sense of confidence in Ontario’s approach to the Ring of Fire development.

Our government will continue to work tirelessly to promote a strong and ever-growing Northern economy, with vibrant industries, a superior workforce, and the infrastructure that will allow businesses to succeed not just today, but for generations to come.

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