Road blocks to the Ring of Fire: Details still scarce, election clock ticking on Far North mineral development – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – June 2, 2017)

Making any headway on building an access road to the Ring of Fire remains a complex, winding and muddled path. Despite Premier Kathleen Wynne’s strident tones in demanding progress to jumpstart development in the dormant Far North mineral belt, it could be years before any shovels are in the ground to blaze a road corridor to the James Bay lowlands.

The provincial bureaucrat leading the regional infrastructure planning process claims much work remains to forge First Nation partnerships with the Matawa tribal council before any construction takes place.

When Northern Development and Mines assistant deputy minister Christine Kaszycki was asked by an attendee at a May 25 Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce luncheon for a realistic timeline when Ring of Fire ore can be expected to start moving, she admitted she couldn’t provide one.

“Nothing happens in a linear fashion,” Kaszycki told the audience, explaining that a “number of dependencies” must be factored in, such as securing federal funding to put vital socio-economic supports in place to prepare the nearby Matawa First Nation communities for development.

Ten years after Noront Resources’ Eagle’s Nest nickel deposit was discovered in the James Bay lowlands, the Toronto mine developer is still waiting on the Ontario government to announce the route for an access road that fits both the needs of the mining industry and has the approval of area First Nations.

With Queen’s Park making no mention of the Ring of Fire from its spring budget, the Wynne government is under the gun to make good on its three-year-old promise to invest $1 billion in mining-related transportation infrastructure before the June 2018 election.

The lack of a development plan and a decision on a corridor could pose a risk in seeing the lead mining developer mothball its advanced nickel and chromite projects.

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