Ring of Fire: Miners urged Ont. to ‘seize opportunity’ – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – September 10, 2014)

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

There are many reasons it’s taken longer to develop the Ring of Fire than expected, and there are lessons to be learned from that.

One is when the mining industry tells government, “You’ve got to seize the opportunity,” it’s true, says the president and chief executive officer of the Mining Association of Canada.

That’s what the industry told the government of Ontario several years ago when metal prices were really strong, said Pierre Gratton.

It would be good to have some of those mines in production or at least going into construction now, Gratton told The Sudbury Star before speaking at the 2014 North America Mining Expo Gala Dinner on Tuesday night at the Caruso Club.

“Now it’s more challenging for the Noronts of this world to raise capital,” said Gratton, “and it’s all been because we’ve struggled with issues we ought not to be struggling with.”

They include roads, who owns what land, protracted government issues and uncertainty around First Nations and their level of participation in developing the area. On a more positive note, Gratton said some of the building blocks for real long-term success in the Ring of Fire are being put into place.

He commended the Government of Ontario for its $1-billion commitment to building infrastructure in the Ring of Fire.

“It’s those types of moves that built this country,” said Gratton. “It’s that kind of foundational building blocks of nationhood that (we) … have not done an awful lot of in recent decades.”

That is exactly what we need to be doing in northern and remote Canada, said Gratton, a former president and CEO of the Mining Association of British Columbia.

In northern B.C., a power line extension was just constructed bringing the grid to a region of the province that didn’t have it before. That opened up a new area where there were mining projects that were costing more to operate because they were reliant on diesel.

“So it’s the same sort of thing here, and we’ve seen it … we’ve seen the potential, the potential for multiple mines in the region, the potential for the smelter, the kind of increase to Ontario’s manufacturing base we haven’t seen in quite some time.”

He is also encouraged by the provincial and federal governments’ work with First Nations “to set the table right, to help ensure they do fully participate and benefit from this type of investment.

“When our industry invests anywhere in Canada now, that’s the expectation — that first nations will be full partners and be involved.”

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