Province providing $1 billion for Ring of Fire – by Lindsay Kelly (Northern Ontario Business – April 28, 2014)

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The Ontario government is providing $1 billion to develop transportation infrastructure in the Ring of Fire. Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle made the announcement on April 28 in Thunder Bay with Bill Mauro, MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan, and David Orazietti, MPP for Sault Ste. Marie.

Gravelle said the province was committed to “make a very significant investment in transportation infrastructure,” but made it clear he expected the feds to pony up their share as well.

“That is absolutely a commitment we expect to be matched by the federal government,” he said. “We’re coming to table with our best offer and we need the prime minister and his team to join us there.”

Calling the Ring the “next great mining development, not just for Ontario, but across the entire country for Canada,” Gravelle said because the Ring is in a remote part of the province never before developed, infrastructure development would be a “complex undertaking.” He did not specify which transportation mode—road or rail—the government favours.

“People and companies need to get into the Ring of Fire to work and they also need to get the products out to market, and to do that we will need, and do need, all-season access to that region, and are very much going to be carefully considering all options for moving forward,” Gravelle said.

But, Gravelle said, the benefits of the area’s development are clear.

“This is a region with tremendous regional economic development potential,” he said. “Once tapped, the Ring of Fire will create thousands of jobs, strengthen the economy and make an enormous difference in terms of the social fabric.”

The money comes a month after the province and the nine communities of the Matawa First Nations settled on a regional framework agreement for working together in the Ring. The agreement centres on mineral and community development.

Last November, the province established a Ring of Fire development corporation to bring miners, First Nations, and the federal government together to kick-start momentum in the James Bay exploration camp.

But the government has contracted out the process to Deloitte Canada to organize the corporation and come up with a plan to build transportation infrastructure to the remote area, located 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.

Deloitte’s marching orders are to set the timelines for making decisions, set the corporation’s guiding principles and “seek consensus” on next steps.

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