OTTAWA — Chinese officials looking to build a $2-billion rail line to Northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire will meet with MPs on Parliament Hill Tuesday, a visit that underscores China’s strong interest in the region’s mining potential.
A group of engineers from a subsidiary of the state-owned China Railway Construction Co. toured the Ring of Fire region by helicopter last week along with officials from KWG Resources, a small Toronto-based mining firm that hopes to secure Chinese investment for its Ring of Fire plans.
The decline in commodity prices has led to a waning of momentum around the Ring of Fire project, which is believed to hold about $60-billion in minerals and more than 100 years of mining activity.
But KWG officials say China sees the long-term potential in developing the region, which is home to large deposits of chromite, a mineral used in the production of stainless steel. The area also has potential for nickel, copper, platinum and palladium mining.
“There’s enthusiasm,” said Frank Smeenk, president and CEO of KWG Resources, who accompanied the eight Chinese engineers Monday for meetings in Montreal with Canadian National Railway Co. officials to discuss options for co-operation.
“This is an international trade deal. From the Chinese perspective, this is an opportunity to begin the relationship with Canada that they have long aspired to and one that is really mutually beneficial and doesn’t take the value-added away from Canada.”
The renewed push to develop the Ring of Fire comes at a time of heightened attention on Ontario’s fly-in First Nations, including an alarming spike in suicide attempts in Attawapiskat, which is east of, and downstream from, the Ring of Fire region.
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