Cliffs’ exit from Ring of Fire forces Ontario to ask: what now? – by Adam Radwanski (Globe and Mail – November 22, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

If not Cliffs, then who? The question is of paramount importance to Ontario’s economic future, and comes with no obvious answer. Mining the chromite deposits of the so-called Ring of Fire north of Thunder Bay is supposed to generate billions of dollars of revenue, and create thousands of jobs. But with the Ohio-based company having scrapped plans to develop it, nobody else is poised to step in.

It’s a dilemma that Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals have surely been contemplating for months already.

In retrospect, it’s apparent that both Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. and the government had a strong inkling this day was coming, and were each doing their best to make the other side wear the bad news.

For Cliffs, that meant mounting a case that the province wasn’t doing enough to remove the myriad barriers to getting work under way. Never mind that the company’s finances took a nosedive in recent years, because it bet heavily on iron ore just before commodity prices tanked, and that its incoming CEO was rumoured to be unenthused by the prospect of making a big investment in a mineral Cliffs has no experience mining.

It was raring and ready to go, if only the province would move more swiftly to get First Nations on board, invest in needed infrastructure, and in particular help resolve a dispute with another company that bought up a piece of land through which Cliffs needed to build a road.

From the province, of late, there were showy gestures aimed at demonstrating that it was going out of its way to make the project work. Never mind that for at least a year after a framework deal with Cliffs was announced in May of 2012, a period when there was a change in premier, there was a noticeable lull.

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