A variation of high-speed train technology being used in urban parts of Asia, like China and Japan, could one day quickly transport both chromite ore and people out of the Ring of Fire without harming the environment, says one of the region’s main mining proponents.
In an address last week to a Natural Resources parliamentary committee, KWG Resources president Frank Smeenk said a Hyperloop train, as the technology is known, is a practical transportation option for the remote chromite deposit near the James Bay area.
“We would propose that a most elegant, efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly use of hyperloop technology is to build a hyperlink (rail corridor) from the Ring of Fire to Nakina,” Smeenk told the committee. Smeenk compared the idea to the proposed high-speed train link between Toronto and Montreal.
Electric high-speed or Maglev trains don’t run on traditional tracks; instead, they use magnets to move off the ground. The Hyperloop concept, still in the development stages, advances the technology a step further to achieve even faster speeds.
“Think of the old department-store pneumatic vacuum tube that used to deliver invoices, and then, instead, imagine ore and people in the capsules,” was how Smeenk put it. The most sought-after mineral in the RoF is chromite, a main ingredient in stainless steel.
“We estimate that there is as much as $600 billion of chromite buried there,” said Smeenk.
“I believe that development of the Ring of Fire can be the next large and major driver of
the Canadian economy, adding two per cent to our GDP (gross national product) or $35 billion annually, for each of the next 100 years.”
It’s believed that most of the chromite from the Ring of Fire would be shipped to markets in China, which Smeenk says has shown a keen interest in RoF development.
KWG has earlier proposed the development of a traditional railroad into the RoF. That was expected to cost $1 billion to build, but was thought to be cheaper to operate in the long run, KWG has argued.
A rail corridor would be less harmful to the environment than a road, KWG has said. A $785,000 study exploring a potential year-round road corridor has been completed, but the province has yet to release the results. The study was jointly funded by the province and the feds.
Noront Resources, the other RoF player, favours an east-west road that would link the site of its proposed nickel mine with Pickle Lake. Noront has urged the province to make a decision soon so that planning for a road can start early next year.
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