Rail idea in Ring of Fire gathering steam – by Len Gillis (Timmins Daily Press – April 30, 2015)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – The City of Timmins this week gave its formal approval to the Mushkegowuk Council plan to create a new railway link from the James Bay coast to the Ring Of Fire mining development.

The issue was put forward in a resolution of support to be sent to the office of Premier Kathleen Wynne, to Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle and to the Northeastern Ontario Municipal Association (NEOMA).

The support from Timmins is for an initiative first described in a Daily Press news story back in January when Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Lawrence Martin said there were plans in the works for Mushkegowuk to buy the Ontario Northland railway.

Martin revealed that a Toronto-based rail investment group, TGR Rail, had the funding in place if the province was ready to give the go-ahead for the purchase. Martin explained that a new rail line could be extended beyond the existing ONR line that runs from Cochrane to Moosonee.

The Timmins resolution said the creation of a new rail link would not only see new economic development and growth for First Nations, it would also put Timmins in a prime situation to serve Ring Of Fire mining companies. This would also create the possibility that ore from the huge mining region could be processed or refined in Timmins.

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Feds provide funding to save Algoma passenger train – by Staff (Northern Ontario Business – April 1, 2015)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.

The federal government will provide $5.3 million over three years so the Algoma Central Rail (ACR) passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst can continue.

The announcement was made on April 1. CN, the current operator of the train, said it would cease offering the service as of April 1, after Transport Canada announced last year it would no longer provide the subsidy to keep it going.

According to a government news release, the City of Sault Ste. Marie will receive federal support for three years for the continued operation of the passenger rail service.

This would allow Railmark, the proposed operator, to demonstrate its ability to deliver on its business plan. A review will be carried out at the three-year mark to determine if additional funding is warranted.

“The Harper government is pleased to provide funding over the next three years to maintain operation of the passenger rail service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst,” Sault MP Bryan Hayes said in the release.

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Deadline looms for passenger rail service in Algoma – Linda Savory-Gordon Interview by Jason Turnbull (CBC News Sudbury – March 25, 2015)


 ‘There are resorts who are all booked up for this summer and they are frantic’

Advocates for rail service in the Algoma region say passenger trains will come to a halt at the end of the month without a deal with the federal government.

In February of 2014, CN Rail announced it was ending passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst because the federal government was no longer willing to subsidize the route.

The federal government stepped in at the last minute to extend funding for an additional year to keep the trains rolling and allow time to make a business case for the service.

That one-year reprieve is almost over and there’s been no word from Transport Canada about what comes next for the rail line, which is the only way to access remote lodges between the Sault and Hearst.

“There are resorts who are all booked up for this summer and they are frantic and wondering if they are going to have to contact their clientele and tell them that there is no way they can come in,” said Linda Savory-Gordon with a group called the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains.

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New rail-car standards coming too slow, agency says – by Kim Mackrael (Globe and Mail – March 18, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

OTTAWA — Canada’s transportation watchdog is questioning a federal proposal to phase in tougher tank-car standards over the next 10 years, saying a recent spate of fiery derailments is evidence that faster action will be needed.

The Transportation Safety Board made the comments in a progress report on its investigation into a crude-oil train accident earlier this month in Northern Ontario. The TSB is investigating the derailment of a Canadian National train near Gogama, Ont., on March 7, which spilled crude oil into a nearby river and sparked a massive fire that burned for more than three days.

While investigators did not come to a conclusion on what caused the accident, they said they found a section of broken rail that had been installed two days before the accident. The rail was sent to a laboratory in Ottawa for further analysis, the report said.

All of the tank cars involved in the accident were built after 2011 and complied with the current CPC-1232 standard, the TSB report said. That means they had steel cladding at the front and protection over the valves – added safeguards that were not present on the earlier-model tank cars involved in the Lac-Mégantic disaster two years ago.

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Laughren, as new chair, sees great opportunities for ONTC – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – March 4, 2015)


TIMMINS – Former Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren sees a great opportunity for Ontario Northland to make better use of its assets and to generate more revenues and attract more clients.

Laughren, it was announced last week, has been nominated for appointment as chairman of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission rail and bus service.

Laughren’s nomination, as well as the nomination of board members Steven Carmichael, Ewen Cornick, Gaeten Malette and Ila Watson, is subject to the approval of the standing committee on government agencies. “I think we’re going to go in with the goal to create an entity that is sustainable,” he said. “New direction, new customers, new clients, that’s been one of the downfalls of Ontario Northland, especially on the rail side.

“We’ve just watched Resolute (the paper mill in Iroquois Falls) close. I’m sure Resolute would have been a huge user of Ontario Northland. We’ve seen the changes at the Kidd Metallurgical site (with the Hoyle smelter closing). So we all know the importance of rail but we also have to look at new opportunities and future opportunities.”

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Mushkegowuk rail plan still on despite road study – by Len Gillis (Timmins Times – March 3, 2015)


The federal and provincial governments announced on the weekend that more than three-quarters of a million dollars will be spent on a study for a new road in Northern Ontario.

The announcement was made Sunday at the annual Prospector’s and Developers Convention (PDAC) in Toronto. Federal Natural Resources minister Greg Rickford and provincial Northern Development and Mines minister Michael Gravelle said their governments are contributing 50-50 to a $785,000 expenditure through the FedNor Northern Ontario Development Program.

The money is for a joint venture to study the idea of building a road into the lucrative Ring Of Fire mining prospect.

“The study will examine the benefits of developing an all-season transportation corridor connecting First Nation communities in the area with existing roadways, enabling them to capitalize on opportunities related to resource development in the region,” said the joint news release.

Reaction to the announcement is generally good, but there doesn’t appear to be a lot of overwhelming excitement, based on comments from from at least two Northern leaders. “The word I am hearing is, there’s the announcement and some people are saying, what, another study?” said Lawrence Martin, the Grand Chief of the Mushkegowuk Council.

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Moosonee railway extension gaining momentum – by Len Gillis (Timmins Times – February 25, 2015)


Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Lawrence Martin will be joining the chiefs of the Matawa Tribal Council at the annual prospectors’ convention in Toronto next week to outline his plans for a new railway line running from Moosonee to the Ring Of Fire mining project.

Martin said he met with Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias earlier this week to outline the idea, but Martin said Moonias could not make any sort of a commitment on behalf of the Matawa First Nations, which is claiming territorial jurisdiction over the mining area. Martin said however there is growing support for Mushkegowuk.

Regardless, grand chief Martin said the idea is gaining momentum and more people are willing to listen to the idea. He said he expects mining executives at the Prospectors and Developers Convention next week will be interested in hearing the proposal, given the overall interest in the mining project.

The Ring of Fire is the name give to a huge deposit of chromite located in the McFauld’s Lake and Webequie area, about 600 kilometres north west of Timmins. Chromite is an important mineral element in manufacturing stainless steel. The Ring of Fire area could become the largest chromite mining site in North America, a venture measured in the tens of billions of dollars.

In January, Martin revealed the idea of creating a rail link across Mushkegowuk territory into the Ring Of Fire area with a two-pronged objective; one to bring in a rail link and secondly to bring in a high-voltage energy transmission line.

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Commentary: Tough markets demand a rethink of rail in Labrador Trough – by Glen Ireland and Mark Apli (Northern Miner – February 13, 2015)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry.

During its successful 2014 election campaign, Quebec’s Liberal Party vowed to revive Plan Nord — a cherished blueprint for opening up the province’s vast northern mineral wealth for development. Brainchild of former Liberal Premier Jean Charest, the plan was shelved for two years after his defeat to the Parti Québécois in 2012.

The mining industry has recently given its strong support for Premier Philippe Couillard’s refreshed Plan Nord, which includes an ambitious, greenfield 400+ km multi-user railway corridor and port connecting stranded mineral deposits in the legendary Labrador Trough to Sept-Îles on the coast. Energy and Natural Resources Minister Pierre Arcand, Plan Nord’s helmsman, announced in October 2014 a major technical study of the project by Montreal-based Canarail, whose fees will be paid by Quebec taxpayers and supportive junior miners.

While “Plan Nord redux” now appears to be back on track, some awkward but important questions are being asked: Can an infrastructure mega-project in the Labrador Trough be justified at current, heavily-depressed iron ore prices? And, is a new railway corridor really the only viable logistics solution for planned iron ore mines?

Soon after Premier Couillard’s government took office, a flood of iron ore from newly-expanded mines in Australia’s Pilbara, combined with perceived weakness in core demand markets, drove prices from US$130 per tonne to US$70 per tonne — a five year low.

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City eager to work with chiefs on rail link to Ring of Fire – by Len Gillis (Timmins Daily Press – February 5, 2015)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Lawrence Martin says the chiefs and Elders who gathered in Kashechewan last week agreed to the idea of taking over Ontario Northland Railway and extending rail service to the Ring Of Fire.

Along with that, Martin said he wants Timmins to be included in the venture with this city becoming the site of a new chromite ore refinery. Timmins Mayor Steve Black said he supports the Mushkegowuk initiative.

The idea, which was first revealed by The Daily Press two week ago, seeks to expand the Ontario Northland rail link north beyond Moosonee, to include other communities on the James Bay coast and on to the Ring of Fire.

Martin, who is meeting with government officials in Toronto this week, said he was more than pleased with the fact that the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council annual general assembly, held in Kashechewan last week, gave full support to the railway expansion idea.

“Yes, it went very well,” Martin said. “What we did first is show the people all the activity in and around the area, all the mining claims in our territories, some of the exploration work that is going on now and the expansion of De Beers and, of course, all this talk of the Ring Of Fire.”

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Mushkegowuk Ring of Fire plan attracts railroader interest – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – February 3, 2015)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North. Ian Ross is the editor of Northern Ontario Business ianross@nob.on.ca.

The Mushkegowuk Council’s conceptual plan for a Ring of Fire railway, power corridor and James Bay port took a strange twist with possible partnership talk involving a private railway company with a keen eye on buying the Ontario Northland Railway.

Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Lawrence Martin caused a media stir at a Jan. 22 energy conference in Timmins when he told reporters that his northeastern Ontario tribal council was considering teaming up with TGR Rail to extend rail service to the coast and into the Ring of Fire.

TGR, a Toronto-based rail services company, claims it has the financing and the team in place to acquire and expand the rail assets of the North Bay-based Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC).

The company contacted Mushkegowuk last year when the tribal council on the eastern side of the Ring of Fire began floating the idea of an energy infrastructure corridor.

It calls for a multi-use easement corridor of power, fibre optic and rail links that would provide all-season access and grid-based electricity to isolated communities and the remote mineral deposits with a connection to a proposed saltwater port to move chromite ore to the coast.

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PMO taking a look at Ring of Fire plan to rival Ontario’s: Cree chief – by James Munson (iPolitics.ca – January 24, 2015)


The Prime Minister’s Office has expressed interest in a First Nations-led plan to build a new seaport and railroad across northern Ontario to the Ring of Fire mineral deposit, an election-year effort that would rival Premier Kathleen Wynne’s own designs for the region.

The Mushkegowuk Council and TGR Rail Company are preparing a joint purchase of the Ontario Northland rail line between North Bay and Moosonee, pending the First Nation group’s approval from its council of chiefs this week, said Mushkegowuk Council grand chief Lawrence Martin Friday.

The plan would open the door to a east-to-west rail, transmission line and telecommunications corridor to the Ring of Fire, a 5,120 square kilometre crescent of ore that could bring a $9.4 billion increase to Ontario’s GDP over the next decade if developed.

After more than a year of what Wynne has characterized as foot dragging from Ottawa on a federal-provincial plan, the PMO and Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford’s office called TRG Rail in the past three weeks expressing interest in the new plan, Martin told iPolitics.

“We’ve even had a call from the PMO office asking for information for our project,” said Martin, adding it was TGR Rail, a Toronto-based rail company, that took the call. “It’s gaining momentum, so it looks like it’s going ahead.” TGR Rail would not comment on the corridor plan, saying only that the firm would issue a news release Monday.

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Ontario Government shuts down ONR sale talk – by Jeff Turl (Bay Today – January 26, 2015


The Ontario government and ONTC management have acted quickly to quash any talk that the ONR could be sold to a James Bay native council.

Mike Feenstra, Director of Communications for Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines told BayToday in an email that, “On April 4, 2014, after extensive work with the Minister’s Advisory Committee on the ONTC, Minister Gravelle announced the government would keep the ONTC in public hands and operations would be transformed. As a result, 4 of the 5 lines of business (Onterra has been sold to Bell Aliant) are being kept in public hands under the management of the ONTC. This statement from Minister Gravelle reaffirms this decision:

“Our government has been clear – ONTC’s motor coach, Polar Bear Express, rail freight, and refurbishment services will remain in public hands. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure sustainable employment, continued economic growth, and a strong transportation network in northeastern Ontario through transformation of the ONTC.”

And Interim CEO of Ontario Northland Corina Moore confirmed it to BayToday. “The province has been clear that Ontario Northland’s rail operations will remain in public hands. Transformation is underway at Ontario Northland. We are focused on reshaping the organization in order to be sustainable so we can continue to provide vital transportation services to northeastern Ontario.”

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Monday January 26th, 2015

TGR Rail Canada is proud to confirm that it is moving forward with a proposal to negotiate a deal to finance build and operate a 410 km railway to the Ring of Fire from Moosonee on James Bay with the Mushkegowuk Council. The visionary Mushkegowuk Council, on behalf of their people, are reviewing the concept of a First Nations owned infrastructure corridor through their territory that will include high power hydro lines, an access road and a railway. The Mushkegowuk, with the support of TGR Rail Canada, have also identified the potential future location for a James Bay deep sea port to service the Ring of Fire mining companies.

“These guys are different,” said Grand Chief Martin. “They don’t want to talk about treaties. They said they need land to lease from us, all they need to know is how much we want for it.” TGR Rail confirms that the Mushkegowuk will have a significant ownership position in the new Ring of Fire Railway. The James Bay area First Nation will also benefit when the construction service road built for the new railway is converted for use as a First Nations community access road benefitting the entire region.

Grand Chief Martin said his personal opinion is that the proposal is a good one because there is already an idea on the table to extend a high voltage hydro transmission line from the James Bay coast on a new right of way to the Ring Of Fire. He said it would only make sense to create a right of way to serve hydro and rail service at the same time. The most important factor is that the Mushkegowuk people will have ownership of the project.

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Stakeholders send [Algoma Central] rail funding proposal to Transport Canada – by Staff (Northern Ontario Business – January 2015)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business  provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.  

Stakeholders vying to retain the CN-owned Algoma Central Railway passenger service between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst have sent a funding proposal to the federal government.

The stakeholders say the request would cost Transport Canada considerably less than its financial support of the service in recent years, and includes information from a third-party rail company that’s expected to take over the service in 2015.

“With a relatively limited investment, the federal government can keep this critical transportation line in operation,” said Joe Fratesi, chair of the ACR Passenger Service Stakeholders Working Group and CAO for the City of Sault Ste. Marie. “We look forward to hearing back from the Government of Canada in the coming weeks.”

Following a request for proposal process that saw three qualified rail companies bid to assume operation of the Algoma Central Railway passenger service, one bidder has been selected for final negotiations.

That followed a thorough analysis of the firm’s bid, which detailed plans to increase revenue and ridership by diversifying the types of tourism products and services available to passengers, as well as making the service self-sustaining within five years.

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Possible rail solution in Ring of Fire – by Len Gillis (Timmins Daily Press – January 23, 2015)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – The Mushkegowuk Tribal Council is considering the idea of teaming up with a Southern Ontario rail company to purchase the rail division of Ontario Northland with an eye to expanding rail service on the James Bay Coast and eventually to the Ring Of Fire mining development.

Mushkegowuk grand chief Lawrence Martin revealed Thursday afternoon that his organization has been approached by TGR Rail Canada Ltd, which is one of the companies bidding on the divestment of Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.

“They gave us a proposal to consider in which we would look at an MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) to discuss the possibility of a partnership with them,” said grand chief Martin, speaking to the Aboriginal Energy Symposium.

He said TGR Rail Canada, based out of Toronto, is one of the companies approved by the province as eligible to purchase Ontario Northland rail operations provided they do it in a partnership with a Northern Ontario organization such as Mushkegowuk.

“At this point I can say it is a proposal. We are looking at it.

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