We can work with feds on Ring of Fire: Gravelle – by Jim Moodie (Sudbury Star – August 26, 2014)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

While Michael Gravelle wasn’t ready to unveil a development corporation for the Ring of Fire yesterday, the Northern Development and Mines minister did tell an audience of policymakers and industry leaders from across Canada that action on this front is looming.

“We are working very hard, right now, to get a corporation established and I will have an update on that very, very soon,” said Gravelle, during a keynote address at the Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference at College Boreal.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne earlier promised her government would create a corporation to guide development of the James Bay chromite deposits within 60 days of the July 3 throne speech — in other words, by early September — and Gravelle said this remains the plan.

“We will meet the commitment,” he pledged. Addressing federal colleague Greg Rickford, the Natural Resources minister and minister for FedNor, Gravelle said he looked forward “to having a more substantive conversation with you once we have the details in place on a development corporation.”

Such a creation “is of vital importance,” said Gravelle, “because it will bring partners together to make the infrastructure decisions — partners who live in and around the region who are closely affected, like the Matawa member First Nations.”

Ontario has established a strong relationship with Aboriginal groups in the James Bay area, he said, citing “the regional framework agreement we signed this past March” as proof. “This agreement ensures the Matawa First Nations are active participants in, and will benefit from, the proposed Ring of Fire development.”

The focus now, he said, is to bring together a team to advance the project, and federal participation is integral to that process. “We are hoping the federal government will join us in partnering through a development corporation made up of First Nations, key industry partners and the provincial government to lead strong, strategic infrastructure development in that region,” he told conference attendees.

Noting the Ring of Fire has mineral potential worth $60 billion, Gravelle said his government views the resource as “an opportunity to create thousands of jobs and significantly strengthen our economy, and Canada’s, for years to come.”

The stumbling block is access, as “there are no roads and no all-weather access to the region,” he said. “We take these challenges very seriously and that’s why in our recent budget we committed up to $1 billion for transportation infrastructure.”

The federal government has yet to pledge an equal amount for a rail or road network to reach the chromite deposits.

Ontario’s contribution doesn’t hinge on Canada anteing up a share, said Gravelle, but his government clearly believes a federal investment is called for.

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