Many questions abound when it comes to the issue of mineral development in the Ring of Fire (RoF) region of Northern Ontario. These questions – which are top of mind for many in industry, government, academia – include concerns about who will pay for the necessary infrastructure and how it will be organized, planned, managed and implemented. All big issues. In a paper I recently wrote for the Northern Policy Institute on the topic, I suggest a properly-designed transportation Authority model could be more effective than a traditional Crown corporation to meet the infrastructure needs in the RoF.
The Authority model would maintain the same core elements as formulated in federal Airport/Port Authorities, but would obviously need to be tailored to fit the unique challenges of RoF development. An effective model would place the onus and risks on all the stakeholders and not just the provincial government and taxpayers, while maintaining elements of independence, inclusiveness, risk sharing, market-driven, political independence and legislated legally-binding powers.
Let’s step back for a minute. The Ring of Fire consists of an area in the northern part of the province near the Attawapiskat River, where large high-grade deposits of chromite, nickel, copper and other minerals have been discovered, currently valued from $60 to $100 billion dollars that can be mined over many decades.
The mineral resources in the area are remote and difficult to access with many conflicting and competing interests and costly infrastructure requirements. Stakeholders include nine First Nations in the region, various mining companies and the provincial and federal governments, making infrastructure needs – such as railway, road, power, pipeline and/or air facilities – a complex arrangement. Continue Reading →