Laying the groundwork for a Ring of Fire road – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – May 15, 2017)

Northwest communities, industry study freight, ore-haul transload facility

With no funding or direction coming from Queen’s Park on Ring of Fire transportation infrastructure, Sioux Lookout is taking the lead in promoting a road-to-rail transload facility to move material and supplies in and out of the largely dormant mineral belt.

The northwestern Ontario town has pulled together a “working group” of like-minded business leaders, community and First Nation partners to craft a logistics concept called the Integrated Transportation System (ITS). It binds together the town’s local highway, rail and air connections, and creates much-needed brownfield space.

To Vicki Blanchard, the town’s economic development manager, Sioux Lookout is the “place to start” to stage, ship and transfer raw materials, industrial supplies, fuel and goods to remote communities and the potential Ring of Fire mining camp through an east-west road corridor.

“This is truly a regional opportunity,” said Blanchard. The northwestern Ontario town of 5,200 is situated 65 kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway. Highways 516 and 599 connects the town with Pickle Lake to the northeast, which is the beginning of the winter road network serving isolated First Nation communities.

The ITS working group was formed last March at the Prospectors and Developers mining show in Toronto. It includes Noront Resources; the lead mining player in the Ring of Fire; Canadian National Railway (CN), whose main line runs through town; First Mining Finance, a holding company with several prospective gold properties in northwestern Ontario; Morgan Fuels, a major fuel hauler to many remote communities; and the Township of Pickle Lake, where a proposed east-west corridor to the Ring of Fire would conceivably begin.

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