Some Random Thoughts About Public/Media Pessimism About Ring of Fire – by Stan Sudol

The pessimism about the Ring of Fire is extraordinary. With two multi-billion-dollar Australian mining corporations fighting tooth and claw over this valuable mineral-rich camp, with one confirmed nickel/copper mine and one of the largest chromite deposits in the world, it is unjustified.

Many of the most prominent geologists in the country privately say that this is Sudbury Basin 2.0. For those outside the mining world, Sudbury’s polymetallic mineral deposits – nickel, copper, platinum group metals, cobalt, gold and silver – is the richest, multi-generational ore body in Canada and one of the most important integrated – mine, mill, smelter, refinery – mineral complexes in the world.

For much of the history of the last century, the city’s mines were the main source of nickel to the western world, a strategic metal vital for military weapons. In fact, the old Inco had long-standing connections to key people in the American Military Industrial Complex.

You see this pessimism in the articles written in the Globe and Mail and Financial Post and other national publications. I hear it from my editor in the Sudbury Star and I hear it from the questions I am asked in various interviews over the past few days.

It’s painfully obvious many reporters, politicians and the general public have very little knowledge about the country’s extraordinary mining history. Sudbury, Timmins, Kirkland Lake, Rouyn, Val D’Or, Chibougamau, Thompson, Flin Flon, Elliot Lake, the list is endless – each of these mining communities were originally in isolated regions of the country. We had no problem back then building the transportation and processing infrastructure to develop those deposits and shipping them to global markets. Hundreds of thousands of families – Canadian born and immigrant – had and still do have productive and rewarding lives in these resource communities.

The biggest population increase in Northern Ontario’s history occurred during the booming 1950s when our neighbour to the south was basically the manufacturing centre of the entire world – war torn Europe and Asia had to be rebuilt including their basic industries – and was achieving explosive growth rates due to pent up demand for housing, cars and just about everything else. Their voracious demand for the abundant resources of northern Ontario was responsible for the region’s population to increase from 536,000 to 722,000 (1951-1961).

Sadly, for much of this history, First Nations communities were not consulted or included. That has changed dramatically. There are many successful mine developments today that provide jobs, training and supply contracts to Indigenous companies. Kirkland Lake Gold’s Detour Lake gold mine, Vale’s Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Labrador, Glencore’s Raglan’s nickel mines in northern Quebec, Agnico Eagle’s gold mines in Nunavut, the uranium mines in northern Saskatchewan, just to mention a few, all have good relations with the Indigenous peoples on whose traditional territory their mines are on.

A dinky stubb of a country – Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba – with a population of about four million, and led by Scotsman, John A. Macdonald, managed to build the longest railroad in the world at that time, through some of the harshest geography on the planet in slightly under five years (1880-1885) and in the process managed to ensure the country was not swallowed up by the Americans.

In 1942, the Alaska-Canada Highway was built during World War Two for strategic security reasons. It went from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska for a total distance of roughly 2,600 kms and was built by 11,000 soldiers in an astonishing eight months.

We just require a simple 300 km two lane gravel road and a couple of bridges into the Ring of Fire. It’s not the pyramids of Giza or the Panama Canal!!

All we need is to come to an agreement with the opposing FNs whose communities are between 130 kms to 250 kms from the mineral deposits. Has the federal or provincial governments tried to sit down with these opposed communities to try to reconcile their concerns. Highly doubtful, but please let me know if I am incorrect.

Webequie and Marten Falls, on whose traditional territories, the vast majority of the mineral deposits and the proposed north-south road into the camp are on, support the project, and are currently working on onerous provincial environmental assessments (EAs).

Should Marten Falls, which is working on EAs for the roughly 170 kms section of the road south of its community to the provincial highway, really need to consult with Attawapiskat which is about 300 kms to the northeast. Sudbury doesn’t need to consult with North Bay, 130 kms to the east, about a bypass road that community built in its suburbs! Premier Ford talks about cutting red tape, yet his bureaucrats have gone “overboard” on their consultation requirements for Marten Falls.

Sadly, mainstream media reports often do not mention these pro-mining communities but highlight the First Nations who oppose the project even though they are either working on resource development projects or all-season roads of their own on their traditional territories. Some balanced reporting from our mainstream media would be helpful.

As well, some vision and financing for strategic infrastructure from both levels of government would also be helpful. One has to go back to the John Diefenbaker government of 1957-63, and his northern vision for political leadership on resource development! Diefenbaker felt that Canada needed to look north and invested federal dollars on the necessary roads and railroads to help develop the rich resources found up there.

The nickel, copper and other potential battery metals in the Ring of Fire are critical for the transition to electric vehicles necessary for the decarbonization initiatives to stop global warming. Two giant Australian mining companies are fighting to take control of Noront Resources’ valuable mineral deposits. The private sector is more than willing to invest in Ontario’s undeveloped and isolated far North. Both Webequie and Marten Falls see the enormous opportunity of jobs, training and Indigenous mine supply contracts that will give them economic prosperity.

One can only weep at the apathetic, luke-warm response from Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau.

Stan Sudol is a Toronto-based communications consultant, mining columnist and owner/editor of mining news aggregator