Ontario has been doing a poor job of laying the groundwork for new mining projects and keeping track of abandoned ones that pose a safety hazard, says the auditor general.
Bonnie Lysyk included the mining sector in an overall scathing report this week on how the provincial government has been managing various departments.
“Although Ontario is the largest mineral producer in Canada, accounting for one-quarter of total Canadian mineral production, a survey of mining and exploration companies ranked Ontario ninth among Canadian provinces and territories in investment attractiveness in mineral exploration,” Lysyk said after her report was tabled.
The province’s mining sector is overseen by Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle, a Thunder Bay MPP who has held the position since 2007, except for the period between 2011 and 2013.
Among other things, Lysyk took Gravelle’s ministry to task for “no detailed plan or timeline for supporting the development of the (Ring of Fire) deposit.”
Gravelle, who said he spoke to Lysyk before she released her report, said “we are doing all the work that needs to be done to be prepared for this major project moving forward, work that is being carried out by the dedicated people working at the Ring of Fire secretariat.”
Tory MNDM critic MPP Norm Miller, who is based in Parry Sound, had a different take.
Miller said the RoF secretariat, “with three regional offices and 19 staffers, has incurred operating costs of $13.2 million since being formed in 2010, and has no performance measures to gauge effectiveness of its actions to date.”
Gravelle added that negotiations between the Matawa First Nation group are continuing, and said he is “optimistic” that a new Liberal government in Ottawa will be willing to co-fund RoF infrastructure development.
The province and the previous Tory federal government agreed to fund a major study into a potential all-weather access road expected to be completed in the spring.
Still, some fear that RoF development could be put off indefinitely on Gravelle’s watch.
Earlier this fall, the region’s last main player, Noront Resources, said it was struggling to convince investors that it should remain working in the remote RoF belt in the absence of any government assistance.
On Thursday, Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs said: “If we lose Noront, then the Ring of Fire is going to go dormant for a long time.”
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