“Further studies” are sad, shameful – by Russel Noble (Canadian Mining Journal – June/July 2015)

Russell Noble is the editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.

I hate to say it but it keeps getting more difficult to remain excited about the prospects for Ontario’s proposed “Ring of Fire.”

Initially when Cliffs Resources pulled its $3.3-billion plug on the project by packing up and going back home to Ohio, I thought the Ontario government’s $1-billion plan to move forward with helping develop the chromite-rich deposit in northwestern Ontario would help save the project.

In fact, I almost started feeling that the government actually recognized that the “Ring of Fire” could be Ontario’s answer to Alberta’s oil sands and that the billion dollars it dangled out there would kick start what should be the largest mining project in the province’s history by attracting more investors.

But now, thanks to the recent federal budget where Ottawa only valued the project as merely a $23-million investment over five years, the Ontario government has found a loop hole for its support too because the billion bucks was: “contingent on matching federal funds.”

In other words, both governments appear to have pretty much given up on the “Ring of Fire” and that’s not only sad, but shameful. During these times when investing in mining has taken a backseat to more voter-friendly issues like infrastructure, the environment, health care and education, it’s sad that projects with the scope the “Ring of Fire” offers has been treated with so little commitment.

Sure I agree that the issues like the infrastructure, the environment, health care and
education, plus many more, are important and deserve financial support, but I also
strongly think a project with the scale and opportunity the “Ring of Fire” offers should
be given equal if not more attention.

I know that many taxpayers object to huge amounts of federal money being spent on projects outside of their own jurisdiction, but every once in a while people have to get over the “why them?” mentality and accept things for the good of the country as a whole.

Canada gives millions, perhaps even billions of dollars every year from what seems like a bottomless reserve for things like foreign relief, but when it comes to a longerlasting
commitment like the “Ring of Fire,” it becomes an issue for “further study.”

Those two words are becoming an all too-easy answer to many pressing questions that deserve immediate answers and I’m afraid that unless politicians start responding with positive and concrete replies when asked questions that need an immediate answer, then more companies
like Cliffs Resources will take their money and go home.

The “Ring of Fire” is not a new plan because as most of us know, it’s been on the books since at least 2007 when Noront Resources’ Richard Nemis announced the discovery of the first significant mineral find in the area.

Since then, the 5000km2 property, located about 500km northeast of Thunder Bay, has been the focus of more than at least 35 junior companies and no fewer than 30,000 claims.

Unfortunately, only two major development proposals have come from those claims; one by Cliffs Resources which is now gone, and the other from Noront Resources for its Eagle’s Nest project and in particular, its Blackbird chromite deposit.

Like too many mining projects, however, various approvals and permits from the provincial government, local communities, plus the ever-present need for financing, have resulted in delays to Noront’s business plan.

Delays in getting mining projects into production are nothing new to the industry but there are some things that should be made more streamlined and I’m convinced that the whole issue of “further studies” doesn’t help matters.

Click here for the entire June/July issue: http://www.canadianminingjournal.com/issues/de.aspx