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Stakeholders should share in both the risks and rewards associated with Ring of Fire infrastructure development, says the author of a new report from the Northern Policy Institute.
Nick Mulder, former deputy minister of Transport Canada and author of Beneath the Surface: Uncovering the Economic Potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire, believes a model similar to the airport or port transportation authority would be more effective than a traditional Crown corporation. “I’m not a right-winger at all, but government should basically focus on steering, not rowing,” Mulder said. “The rowing can be done by somebody else.”
His report calls for the establishment of “an independent, representative and arm’s length statutory Ring of Fire Infrastructure Authority.” Development of the Ring of Fire, a large mineral deposit in the James Bay Lowlands, could be a boon to the economy in Greater Sudbury.
Noront, which discovered a nickel, copper, platinum and palladium discovery at the deposit now known as Eagle’s Nest in the Ring of Fire, in 2007, will likely have its nickel concentrate processed here.
In addition to mining sector jobs, there would be significant spin-off for the burgeoning mining supply and service sector.
There are major challenges facing mineral development in such a remote area, however, and there are still questions about who will pay for required infrastructure and how it will be organized, planned and managed.
Under a Crown corporation model, responsibility would be on the shoulders of the province, which would be expected to review and approve plans on all major projects, fund the largest portions of the costs and accept most of the risks.
“Simply put, the buck would stop at Queen’s Park,” Mulder said.
But under an airport port authority model, stakeholders would have representation on a board, which would plan and procure facilities and services for road, rail and air, so costs and risks would be shared with the private sector.
“The government should set the environmental rules, should sort put the aboriginal issues, the government should decide what kind of royalty regime or resource development plans there should be,” Mulder said. “But then, deciding whether there should be a road or a railroad or a slurry pipeline or airport improvements and all of that, my idea was why should the government decide that, and carry the can?”
It would be bad timing, he said, for the province to take on those responsibilities, given its growing debt and $12.5-billion deficit, as per the most recently tabled budget, as well as uncertainty in mineral markets and prices, unresolved issues with First Nations and environmental impact assessments.
“The real question is why should Queen’s Park make the decisions and why should the taxpayers foot the bill?” Mulder said.
Read NPI’s full report at www.northernpolicy.ca.
For the original version of this article, click here: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2014/06/18/province-should-guide-not-lead-ring-report