Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle is bringing in global consulting and accounting firm Deloitte LLP to resolve the province’s spat with Ottawa over how to develop the Ring of Fire.
The federal and provincial governments are at odds over who you should pay for a transportation corridor into the far-flung mining district in northern Ontario. While the Ring of Fire’s bounty in chromite and other metals could be worth $60 billion according to Queen’s Park, building either a railway or a highway into the area is estimated to cost between one and two billion dollars.
Ottawa was initially supportive of the Ring of Fire, appointing Treasury Board president Tony Clement to oversee the file. But the portfolio has since been bumped to a junior minister and Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a press conference in November that the mineral play was a provincial matter.
The chasm grew in part because Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a development corporation without first alerting the federal government on November 8.
The development corporation is the key to the Ring of Fire’s future since it will become the body that will determine how to build a transportation corridor to the area, which is situated in a marshy region west of James Bay.
The two sides became more open to collaboration after Wynne held a meeting with Harper on December 5.
“On the Ring of Fire they both agreed that the two levels of government will continue to collaborate on this important development,” wrote Prime Minister’s Office spokesperson Carl Vallee in an email after the meeting. “They also agreed that any investments by either level of government must represent a public benefit, including for First Nations.”
According to Gravelle’s announcement Friday, Deloitte will be in charge of establishing the development corporation while providing “neutral, third-party resources” for all the governments involved.
“Deloitte LLP will work with Ring of Fire partners to set clear paths and timelines for decision-making, create guiding principles for the development corporation, and seek consensus on the corporation’s next steps,” says a news release from Gravelle’s office.
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