Minister rejects Ring of Fire report – by Jonathan Migneault (Northern Ontario Business – March 20, 2015)

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Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources said he rejects an Ontario Chamber of Commerce report that gave the federal government a failing grade in its involvement in the Ring of Fire development.

“I don’t accept it,” said Minister Greg Rickford during a visit to Sudbury. “The federal government has been working with communities.”

In its report card on progress, or lack thereof, near the remote Ring of Fire mineral deposits, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce said, “The federal government has yet to demonstrate that the Ring of Fire is an economic development priority.”

The report went on to say the federal government should commit to matching the $1 billion the provincial government set aside to build infrastructure to access the Ring of Fire chromite deposits in the remote James Bay lowlands.

“They didn’t talk about the new runways we put in to land and do exploration activities,” Rickford said. “Nor did I see mention of the great relationship we have with the province on a couple of key initiatives, one of which we announced at PDAC (the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Conference), and that was to focus squarely on specific infrastructure projects that could open up regional development.”

Rickford said the federal government has also worked with Thunder Bay’s Confederation College to train members of Matawa First Nations located near the Ring of Fire for future mining sector jobs in the region.

The Ontario Chamber report, which was primarily written by Liam McGuinty, son of former Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, gave poor grades almost across the board for the overall responses to the challenges the Ring of Fire development poses.

Only the challenge to draw as much as possible from the local labour force to maximize the benefits of the Ring of Fire development received a grade of “B-.”

The chamber lamented the current state of affairs in the region which has seen the departure of Cliffs Natural Resources this past year, leaving the Ring of Fire without a major mining company capable of spending private capital on infrastructure.

The chamber also said the absence of foundational agreements with First Nations and government permitting delays have contributed to the glacial pace of development.

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