PoV: Development corp. notice a yawn – by Brian MacLeod (Sudbury Star – September 7, 2014)

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

It’s no wonder the response to the Ontario government’s announcement that it has formed a development corporation to get moving on the Ring of Fire ranged from muted to headshaking. It was a case of watching a long, slow train running down a flat straight track; sooner or later it would get here, but what now?

The corporation, which the Kathleen Wynne government promised to set up within 60 days of being re-elected, has only an interim board of four senior public servants. No one from the federal government, no one from First Nations, no one from the mining industry.

The interim board, said Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle, will help bring about a full corporation, which will then negotiate agreements, assist with exploration and most importantly, make key infrastructure decisions.

But back in May 2012, the Liberal government and Cliffs Natural Resources -then the lead player in the Ring -announced that at a smelter to process material from the deposit would be built near Capreol, promising about 500 jobs, and that a north-south all-weather road would be constructed to help move the material.

Cliffs -which was going to begin production by 2015 -has since faded from the picture, stopping its operations in the Ring, so the province’s decision to throw all its eggs in that company’s basket backfired. (There are about 100 companies operating in the area, though only about one third of them are active and a few are in a position to move on development.)

There is so much slowing down development of the massive deposit, located about 500 kilo-metres northeast of Thunder Bay -which holds chromite, nickel, copper and other metals -that its promise of $60 billion in riches and thousands of jobs remains so distant it’s almost generational.

The Environmental Assessment process being conducted by the province and the federal government has now escaped a court challenge by the Matawa First Nations, but Cliffs and its former brother in development, KWG Resources, remain in a tug of war over access to lands to build a road, with Cliffs -the company that isn’t developing the Ring at the moment -winning the latest challenge.

And after the province first announced the road back in 2012, the development corporation will someday decided whether it’s a road or rail that will move the material, and which way it will go, north-south or east west.

The province has promised $1 billion for infrastructure and beseeched the federal government to kick in the same and exempt it from having to go through applications from the Build Canada fund, but Ottawa won’t budge.

So no one knows how the $1 billion will be spent. It’s not even set aside, it’s just a paper promise, at the moment.

Moe Lavigne, vice-president of exploration and development for KWG Resources, another player in the ring, said the process to establish a development corporation should have started five years ago.

Noted mining analyst Stan Sudol was aghast at the latest announcement, saying, “with no First Nations or industry representatives on their board, this was obviously a rushed and cynical announcement to try to meet an election promise.”

“This is an absolutely stunning indictment of the Ontario Liberal government’s inability to move this project forward,” said Sudol.

There is one positive in all this. The province and the nine leaders of the Matawa First Nation have signed a framework agreement on how to ensure benefits from the Ring are shared.

And there will indeed be benefits to share. The good thing about resources is they will always be there… in the ground … ready to develop… one day.

For the original source of this column, click here: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2014/09/06/pov-development-corp-notice-a-yawn