A top Canadian federal government official has raised doubts about whether Ontario’s Ring of Fire region will ever be developed, pouring cold water on a critical minerals project that the provincial government has championed and the United States administration has expressed interest in funding.
Jeff Labonté, assistant deputy minister for lands and minerals at Natural Resources Canada, told senior leadership at the Neskantaga First Nation in a meeting on Nov. 17 that it’s possible no mines will be built in the region, and that there is no guarantee Ottawa will ever come forward with the roughly $1-billion in funding needed for development to proceed.
Mr. Labonté joined Natural Resources Canada in 1993 and is the government’s foremost expert on critical minerals. His skepticism comes as a key environmental study in the Ring of Fire faces a multiyear delay, and during a standoff between Ottawa and the Ontario government over funding.
The Globe and Mail learned about Mr. Labonté’s doubts from Dayna Scott, an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, who was in the same meeting. She was there as a policy and strategic research adviser to Neskantaga, a Northern Ontario First Nation that would be affected by mining development in the Ring.
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