The Ring of Fire mineral deposit in remote Northern Ontario was discovered a dozen years ago. Politicians across the political spectrum immediately began touting its potential – billed as tens of billions of dollars, just waiting to be tapped. It’s still waiting.
The decision this week by Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative provincial government to restart talks with local First Nations is the latest try at moving the project forward. It’s not clear this government will succeed where others have failed, and it raises the question of whether the dream of Ring of Fire riches is more fantasy than reality.
The Ring of Fire, named after the Johnny Cash song, is home to a large deposit of chromite ore, used to make stainless steel. South Africa is currently the world’s largest miner. Predicted future demand growth is modest, and the challenges of developing the Northern Ontario site are considerable.
The crescent-shaped deposit is roughly 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. Small Indigenous communities dot the vast territory, which is accessible only by air. The nearest paved road is hundreds of kilometres away, as is the provincial power grid. And, as with any such development, there are major environmental issues.
A lot of hype propelled the early days of the Ring of Fire. It was said to be the biggest mining discovery in Ontario in decades; former Conservative minister Tony Clement claimed its economic impact would be on the scale of the oil sands.
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