Ring of Fire must be a national priority: report – by Lisa Wright (Toronto Star – February 20, 2014)

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Ontario Chamber of Commerce says the promising metals-rich region will generate more than $25 billion in economic activity.

The highly touted Ring of Fire mineral belt in Northern Ontario is expected to generate nearly $2 billion in tax revenues and up to 5,500 full-time jobs in the first 10 years of mining activity, says a new report.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s action plan and economic analysis, to be made public in Toronto Thursday, also calls on the federal government to make the Ring of Fire a national priority.

The report says that within the first decade of development, the mineral-rich area will generate up to $9.4 billion in GDP and nearly $6.2 billion for the province’s mining industry.

Hoping to spur activity in the stalled region, the chamber is calling on Ottawa to take a more active role in the financing of the lucrative mining camp, since it stands to be the primary benefactor of tax revenues — and that “should provide a compelling incentive to invest.”

“At a minimum, it should match any provincial investments in the Ring of Fire infrastructure,” says the “Beneath the Surface” report.

Greg Rickford, the minister responsible for the file, reaffirmed Wednesday that Ottawa’s new Building Canada fund is the way for the province to access major infrastructure dollars.

With the estimated $2 billion cost of building everything from an all-season road to transmission lines, all levels of government stand to recoup their investment within a decade, the document notes.

Over the long-term (32 years), the analysis shows it will generate more than $25 billion in economic activity across Ontario.

The areas expected to benefit are the construction sector in Thunder Bay, the mining supply and service sector in Sudbury, Mississauga, Ottawa and Burlington, the financial services sector in Toronto and the manufacturing sector in London.

Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources indefinitely suspended its massive chromite project last November due to uncertain timelines it blamed on government red tape, but has retained its assets in the stalled region in hopes of getting it off the ground eventually.

“Experts are generally confident that Cliffs will either re-engage in activities or sell its assets to another company who will commence development,” notes the report.

Meanwhile Toronto-based Noront Resources Ltd. has plans to start construction next year on its Eagle’s Nest nickel-copper-palladium project in the Ring of Fire, an area of 5,120 square kilometres in the James Bay lowlands located 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay which is said to contain $60 billion worth of minerals.

Since the early 2000s, significant deposits of copper, zinc, nickel, platinum, vanadium and gold have been found there. The most promising discovery is the first commercial quantities of chromite, used to make stainless steel, in North America.

Issues that must immediately be addressed, says the report, include public funding — with the help of Ontario “Ring of Fire bonds” — the needs of affected First Nations communities, labour market shortages in the North and environment regulation.

For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.thestar.com/business/economy/2014/02/20/ring_of_fire_must_be_a_national_priority_report.html

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