Ring of Fire needs urgency, warns Ontario Chamber of Commerce – by Lisa Wright (Toronto Star – December 4, 2014)

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Preliminary report card on the stalled mineral belt in Northern Ontario says “progress on development has been slow” and “major steps” are required soon to reap economic benefits.

Ontario needs to move quickly on development of the stalled Ring of Fire mineral belt or risk losing huge economic benefits for the province when metal prices bounce back again, warns a preliminary report card by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

“Despite the tremendous economic and social opportunities the Ring of Fire affords Ontario, progress on development has been slow,” says the consultation paper obtained by the Star Wednesday.

The future of the highly-touted, mineral-rich region in the James Bay lowlands has been put in doubt by a severe downturn in the global mining industry. And Cliffs Natural Resources, the largest land claim owner in the Ring, has pulled out of the area, and its new chief executive says there is “zero chance” a mine will ever be built there with all the red tape in the way.

“Unfortunately, in the last few months, the tone of the conversation surrounding the Ring of Fire has turned net negative,” says the document, which provides a preview of the chamber’s official report card on the Ring’s progress expected in February.

“Permitting delays and seemingly interminable negotiation processes have put development a long way off. As Ontario businesses tell us over and over: There’s a greater need for urgency at the Ring of Fire,” says the report.

The site, 400 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont., is estimated to have $60 billion of mineral value including base metals, platinum and palladium, along with the largest deposit of chromite (which is used to make stainless steel) in North America. The deposit is considered significant enough to sustain activity for a century.

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