Ottawa, Queen’s Park fund Ring of Fire road study – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – March 01, 2015)

Will spend $732K in a First Nations-led initiative

First Nations in Ontario’s Far North are being empowered to have a say on a future road to reach the stranded chromite and nickel deposits in the Ring of Fire.

Four Aboriginal communities in the vicinity of the isolated mineral belt in the James Bay lowlands received more than $732,000 from the federal and provincial governments to conduct a Regional Community Service Corridor study.

In championing it as a First Nation-led initiative, federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford and Ontario’s Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle kicked off the opening of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual convention in Toronto on March 1 with the joint announcement.

The partnership involves the remote communities of Webequie, Eabametoong, Neskantaga and Nibinamik. The money will cover the costs of satellite imagery and GIS mapping of the terrain in the James Bay region, combined with an extensive consultation process with the area communities that is expected to take four to six months.

In looking at the bigger transportation, economic and environmental picture, the corridor study will tabulate the costs and viability of moving freight and passenger over a number of route scenarios.

Both Ottawa and Queen’s Park recognize the Ring of Fire’s potential to have a trans formative impact on these communities, but developing the chromite and nickel deposits will require a heavy dose of public infrastructure investment in the future, such as replacing winter roads into these communities with permanent roads to reduce their isolation.

In a release, Gravelle said the partnership “lays the groundwork” for First Nations to explore corridor options, allowing them to benefit from resource development.

Rickford called it a targeted and strategic investment that fosters First Nation economic development, business growth and job creation.

“We’re interested in tangible proposals that can help develop the region.”

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