Ottawa has been throwing cold water on the Ring of Fire, a mineral deposit in Northern Ontario that was once thought to be worth more than $60-billion.
Since the federal Liberal Party came to power last year, the government has stonewalled requests to pay for infrastructure, lowered expectations for development and slashed its valuation for the deposit, according to internal Department of Natural Resources documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.
The skepticism among federal ranks has proven to be another barrier to mining the 5,000-square-kilometre crescent of mostly chromite in the boggy James Bay lowlands and boreal forest. Development of the Ring was already facing significant challenges: No permanent road access, no power, environmental concerns, a prolonged commodities slump and scores of unresolved issues with the nine First Nations groups that live in the region.
“You’ll recall that enthusiasm for advancing [Ring of Fire] major projects is low right now, primarily [because] of low commodity prices,” Genevieve Carr, director of Major Projects Management Office for Natural Resources Canada, said in an e-mail after the Liberals won the federal election last November.
The Trudeau government has said the Ring holds important socioeconomic opportunity for the First Nations communities and Canada and is committed to advancing sustainable resource development. But privately, there are doubts about the costs and economic viability.
The office in charge of managing big resources projects for Ottawa said: “Development is unlikely in the next several years given current commodity prices. A confounding factor is the lack of infrastructure to get materials to market (i.e. road),” according to a December, 2015, document prepared for an assistant deputy ministerial meeting of the Ring.
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