Development hopes still alive for Ontario’s Ring of Fire – by Rob Ferguson (Toronto Star – January 3, 2014)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Hopes for development of the promising $60-billion Ring of Fire mineral belt in northwestern Ontario took a heavy blow in November but they aren’t dead yet.

Hopes for development of the promising $60-billion Ring of Fire mineral belt in northwestern Ontario took a heavy blow in November but they aren’t dead yet.

Just weeks after Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. stunned the province by suspending its $3.3 billion project, a Toronto mining company is taking a major step forward.

Noront Resources Ltd., the second-largest player after Cliffs, has completed studies required for an environmental assessment of its plan to develop the Eagle’s Nest deposit of high-grade nickel, copper, platinum and palladium estimated to be worth $700 million.

“We believe that Eagle’s Nest will be the first mine developed in the Ring of Fire and this brings us one step closer to achieving that goal,” said chief executive Alan Coutts.

The entire Ring of Fire — an area of 4,000 square kilometres about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay — is estimated to be worth about $60 billion in deposits, including chromite, a key ingredient in stainless steel.

It’s believed the area could be mined for up to 100 years.

Cliffs was to build a smelter near Sudbury, open a mine in the Ring of Fire in 2016 and create 1,200 jobs in the economically depressed north as part of its plans now on hold.

The company blamed unresolved land claims, environmental assessment issues and a lack of government support for infrastructure and power needs, prompting opposition parties to blame Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government for “bungling” a massive opportunity.

Work on Noront’s environmental impact statement began in 2009 — two years after the company found the mineral deposits — and examined the mine site itself along with a road corridor and railway loading area.

The plan is now available for public comment before a final version is submitted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, likely next spring.

Other mining firms such as KWG Resources, Bold Ventures Inc. and MacDonald Mines also have exploration on the go and are among 27 companies with 13,000 claims staked, said Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle.

“It would be incorrect to say Cliffs wasn’t a setback but other companies are extremely involved,” he told the Star from his riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North.

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