Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are doggedly pursuing the dream of developing the Ring of Fire mining region in northern Ontario, despite a shaky economic foundation and likely tricky talks ahead with nearby First Nations.
Ford and his energy minister, Greg Rickford, were joined by the elected chiefs of two of those communities at the annual PDAC mining conference in Toronto this week. They were there to tout an agreement that will see those communities — the Webequie and Marten Falls First Nations — lead the environmental assessment for the middle part of a planned north-south road to connect the largely inaccessible region to highways further south.
“It’s historic news that is a real game changer,” said Ford, calling the agreement “a crucial step forward in unlocking the multi, and I say, multi-billion dollar opportunity that is northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire.”
Not so fast, say investors and other critics. There is little appetite to pour more money into mineral exploration in the region amid robust supply and after a major miner pulled out, leaving a junior to collect the staked claims at a discount and wait for better days ahead.
And the government’s divide and conquer strategy has already stirred up opposition from other nearby First Nation communities, which had been in long-running talks that broke down last year.
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