Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne will not give a timeline for when people can expect the Ring of Fire chromite development to be up and running. But, she says, those who think the project is stalled or that the Ontario government isn’t doing enough to get the mining project off the ground may not be seeing the full picture.
Minutes after she had promised a group of miners at Kidd Operations that the Liberal government would “position Ontario over the next decade as the global leader in sustainable mineral development.” The Daily Press sat down with the premier and asked when the project will be operational.
“I want to get shovels in the ground to build related infrastructure as soon as we can, but I’m not going to preempt the process. But by the time I finish my first term as premier, I want us to be able to point to progress that we can point to,” said Wynne.
With that being said, continued Wynne, the province is putting in time and money down a lot of different avenues to see the development come to fruition. These efforts include fungi quarter studies, training programs, negotiating partnership with the federal government, and sending a development corporation to the area to lay the groundwork for infrastructure to open up the James Bay communities.
“So there is work to be done, and the billion dollars has been committed. It’s not like there hasn’t been any activity. The fact is that commodity prices have been low, so my priority right now is on what the vision of that economic opportunity is,” said Wynne. “Of course, it’s about the commodities, but it’s also about all those communities having access to each other and larger centres so they can draw businesses and jobs themselves and take part in the economic development that will happen there.”
The $1 billion Wynne said has been committed was actually announced in 2014 as part of that year’s budget to build transportation infrastructure to the Ring of Fire site. This earmarked money was the only reference to the project in the intirety Liberal’s most recent budget.
When asked if the government planned to do any more than that going forward, Wynne said that the funding for government’s efforts to get the project off the ground were also spread out within the budgets of several departments, which may not have been obvious when reading the budget document.
“You would find them in the economic development line, or in the Northern Development and Mines line, or in the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. So there are things happening in various ways that have to do with developing the Ring of Fire region that will allow for that economic development,” said the premier.
While the province seems slow, argued Wynne, ultimately the way the government is going about it will be good for the Ring of Fire development in the long-run. Without laying the groundwork with First Nations and other stakeholders, it would have caused delays down the line.
“We talk about the Ring of Fire as a huge economic opportunity for the North. But the reality is that the workforce in the North and these communities are not necessarily ready to work in the resource industry at this point, which is why the training and education are important,” she said.
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