Challenges ahead [Thunder Bay mining forum] – by Jeff Labine ( – June 20, 2013)

Mike Metatawabin says he’s disappointed that there wasn’t more First Nation representation at this year’s provincial mining conference.

Metatawabin, the president of Five Nations Energy Inc., joined about 50 other participants at the third annual Ontario Mining Forum at the Valhalla Inn. The two-day mining forum, which started Thursday, promised keynote speakers such as Ontario’s Ring of Fire Secretariat Christine Kaszycki but did not deliver.

Instead, the forum heard from various speakers including politicians and the city’s Community Economic Development Commission on the mining industry in the region.

The cost to attend the event averaged out to be about $2,000 per person. Some participants speculated that that price kept more people, including First Nation officials, from attending. With major projects like the Ring of Fire being discussed, Metatawabin believes it’s crucial First Nation organizations and chiefs attend these conferences.

“During the course of these conferences that I’ve attended, these presentations bring a lot of hope and a lot of inspiration to what we need in the North,” he said. “I think our leadership needs to hear this and be a part of these conferences. We need to sit down, set aside the politics and maybe engage our business people. There’s so much potential here.”

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Have to get Ring of Fire right: Wynne – by Carl Clutchey (Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal – June 14, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

While critics accused her government of “dropping the ball,” Premier Kathleen Wynne said Thursday she wasn’t rattled by this week’s announcement that Cliffs Natural Resources will stop working on its environmental assessment for its big Ring of Fire project.

In a conference call with Northern media outlets, Wynne dismissed a suggestion that Cliffs is upping the pressure on the province to get its chromite mine approved in a more timely manner.

“I’m not seeing it that way,” she said. “I’m seeing it as the natural course of things.” On Wednesday, Cliffs ferroalloys vice-president Bill Boor said the company is temporarily halting its work on its environmental assessment process because, after two years, the parties involved still can’t agree on what the project’s terms of reference should be.

Boor also cited “unfinished agreements with the government of Ontario that are critical to the project’s economic viability.” Wynne said Boor’s announcement “doesn’t change our position to see development in the Ring of Fire.”

The Ring of Fire mining belt, about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, is a “complex” file “and we have to get it right,” said Wynne.

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Let’s get on with it [Ring of Fire development] – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial (June 14, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

HAS it really been three years? Has the Ring of Fire mining development been formally pursued for that long? Perhaps the time seems shorter because so little has been done. The potential salvation of the withering Northern Ontario economy has been mostly on hold over a series of delays around the inability of decision makers to make decisions.

A development commonly likened to the mighty Alberta oilsands in terms of economic impact is stalled while those who stand to benefit most stand in its way. Senior governments that would reap enormous tax benefits to apply to large budget deficits, and First Nations with the potential to finally climb out of unskilled poverty, have been unable or unwilling to approve even the processes to advance formal proceedings into the methods by which further exploration will continue, let alone how mines will be built.

No wonder the Ring of Fire’s major player, Cliffs Natural Resources, has just announced a halt to its environmental assessment activities for a chromite mine in the James Bay lowlands known to be brimming with mineral potential.

Cliffs appears to be stymied as to how to proceed because it cannot get a decision from either the provincial or federal governments on which EA processes will be applied. Cliffs may have thought it had an agreement to pursue one process but concerns by First Nations, environmental groups and federal agencies that it was not stringent enough have raised the possibility of tougher requirements.

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Chromite mine plans on hold – by Carl Clutchey (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – June 13, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

Though Cliffs Natural Resources spooked a lot of Ring of Fire watchers Wednesday with its surprise announcement to temporarily stop work on an environmental assessment for the project, the company emphasized that it’s not pulling out.

“That is the furthest from our minds,” Cliffs global ferroalloys vice–president Bill Boor said Wednesday from the company’s Cleveland headquarters. “The bottom line is that we still very much believe in the project, and strategically, it remains as important to the company as it ever has been.”

Boor said 2017 remains the target for the chromite mine to begin production 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.
When a Sudbury smelter is factored in, the $3.3-billion project is slated to create about 1,200 direct jobs over a 30-year mine life.

Despite his assurances, some believed the project was in jeopardy Wednesday when Boor formally expressed the company’s frustration with the environmental assessment process.

He said the company has hit a roadblock on being able reach an agreement with the province about what the assessment’s terms of references should be.

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[Ontario] Green [Energy Act] isn’t all good – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal (June 2, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

And those 50,000 jobs? McCarter concluded: “A majority of the jobs will be temporary.”
In other jurisdictions, there was actually an offsetting loss of jobs as a result of the
impact of higher renewable energy electricity prices on business, industry and consumers.

IF legislation is a work in progress, Ontario’s Green Energy Act is increasingly an exercise in futility. Launched in 2009 with great fanfare by then premier Dalton McGuinty, this head-first dive into responsible energy production was to place Ontario on the leading edge of a modern industry bursting with potential.

Ontario would attract wind and solar power developers with lucrative contracts. They would develop all kinds of clean power to replace that from Ontario’s cancelled coal plants, leading the way in Canada’s climate change efforts. Developers would agree to manufacture components in Ontario. There would be 50,000 new jobs by the end of 2012, McGuinty said, and untold economic benefits throughout the province.

Who could argue with that? A good many people, it turns out. The contracts were so rich, the terms had to be changed to appease a public angered at learning it was paying considerably more for power from free sun and wind than from costly conventional sources.

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Entrepreneurial thinking drives airport’s success – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – May 2013)

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

Mining signals opportunity to Scott McFadden. The opening of Ontario’s Far North to resource extraction and development is something the president and CEO of Thunder Bay International Airports Authority is keenly keeping his eye on.

While the remote mineral exploration camps in the Ring of Fire are serviced by dirt and ice air strips, as progress moves forward, McFadden said building a significant airfield in the James Bay lowlands to eventually service working mines is a must.

“A properly built and maintained airfield is going to be vital to the development of the Ring of Fire.” McFadden points to Goldcorp’s Musselwhite Mine, 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, which regularly runs charters out of the airport, as a prime example of how the industry has evolved to attract and retain a transient workforce that prefers the long commute to work.

Instead of creating a remote mining town with all its infrastructure, McFadden said companies prefer work camps to allow miners to arrive and leave on a rotational basis.

“Years ago you established a mine and a town around it. These days people’s expectations are different. They want to stay home and I see an airport as probably the best way to develop a mine in a remote area.”

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Still up in the air [Thunder Bay power plant] – by Leith Dunick ( – May 23, 2013)

Premier Kathleen Wynne promised Northwestern Ontario will have the energy it needs.

What she didn’t say Thursday during a brief visit to Thunder Bay was how the province would accomplish the feat. Wynne waltzed deftly around several direct questions about the future of the Thunder Bay Power Generating Station, which supporters of its closure suggest will save the province $400 million.

“This is an ongoing discussion. This is not a dead issue by any stretch of the imagination. We’re still working with the community and the Ministry of Energy is very much engaged with this,” Wynne said.

“I stand by that commitment to make sure we have the generating capacity necessary.” Asked about a demand earlier this month by Mayor Keith Hobbs to either re-start the conversion of the plant to natural gas, a plan halted by former energy minister Chris Bentley, or apologize like she did to southern Ontarians over the gas-plant closure scandal, once again Wynne toed the party line.

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Wynne ready to face [Northwestern Ontario] challenges (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – May 24, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

Ontario’s premier is happy she’s finally getting a chance to do her job. Kathleen Wynne was named premier earlier this year, and came into the job amidst a variety of crises, such as the gas plant controversy, the teacher standoff and a budget battle in which the Progressive Conservative party said it wouldn’t support the Liberal budget before any of its members even saw it.

But now, Wynne has worked out a deal with the provincial NDP that will see the NDP support the budget, avoiding an election and keeping the minority Liberal government in power.

“We’re pleased to be able to say that,” a smiling Wynne said at the Hoito on Thursday during her first-ever visit to Thunder Bay as premier. She’s been here before in her other Liberal roles; she was here, for example, a few days after last year’s flood in her role as minister of municipal affairs and housing.

“We’re in a minority parliament, so that sense of uncertainty doesn’t go away completely,” she said. “But that’s OK, because that keeps us sharp. “There’s a lot of work to do now. Yes, we have the support of the NDP to pass the budget, but that doesn’t mean that implementing the budget isn’t a huge priority. Once we get it through the legislature — we’ve got some work to do on that in the next few weeks — the implementation is really important to me.

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Industry, jobs and the environment (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial – May 23, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

It goes without saying, but there has to be a balance between environmental protection and economic interests, particularly in Northern Ontario. The economies of Northern towns and sensitive ecosystems depend on it. However, that balance was called into question this week by Resolute Forest Products, which pulled out of negotiations on the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement over how much land to set aside for conservation.

While environmentalists accused Resolute of not living up to its promises to protect habitat for caribou, the company said “draconian” demands by environmental groups would have forced the closure of multiple mills and multiple projects in both Ontario and Quebec.

Two of those projects in Northwestern Ontario — the restart of the Ignace sawmill and a new sawmill project in Atikokan — would have been shelved, and a Fort Frances paper mill would have closed, the company said, if it agreed to environmentalists’ terms.

Resolute said it put forward proposals for more protected areas, including an additional 204,000 hectares of forest for conservation in Northern Ontario, but it wasn’t enough for environmentalists. Company spokesman Seth Kursman said that the company “was not about to negotiate people’s livelihoods away.”

“Many communities have already been hit by the forest industry crisis, (so) we could not unilaterally support such measures,” he said.

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The tax dilemma in Northern [Ontario] towns (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial – May 22, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

A Northern town trying to shore up its assessment base by attracting new residents would be hard pressed to do so if potential newcomers knew they’d be facing sky-high taxes. Yet that’s the dilemma in Schreiber, where a lack of industry has left some homeowners paying $5,000 or more in residential taxes just so the town can keep the streets plowed and streetlights on.

One of the North’s oldest municipalities, Schreiber was once fairly prosperous, one of many single-industry towns on the Trans-Canada Highway.

But as its businessman mayor Don McArthur explains, for more than a decade the town has been slowly crumbling in the wake of a mine closure and the overall forestry collapse that felled many towns like it between Kenora and White River.
A situation that has left residents paying the price for a backlog of $3 million of unpaid and uncollectable commercial taxes has reached the point of no return, it seems.

If it isn’t addressed soon, says McArthur, the town will spend another 10 years lucky to tread water while its neighbours break free of the recession. In the short term, McArthur wants the province to cover half the cost of clearing the hefty backlog so the municipality can reduce the time required to break free of what the mayor bluntly terms “a financial sinkhole.”

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Thunder Bay releases mining strategy to capitalize on new economy – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – May 2013)

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 municipality, its economic development commission and Fort William First Nation released their mining readiness strategy to serve as their game plan to prepare the communities for the monumental economic spinoffs expected to come their way.

A 398-page document, entitled Advantage Northwest, takes a wide angle view in forecasting the opportunities and challenges coming from mining development in northwestern Ontario and the Far North Ring of Fire exploration camp.

Prepared by SNC-Lavalin and Edward Hoshizaki Development Consulting, a final draft was circulated at two public meetings in April before a final document was released at month’s end with a list of recommendations and priorities to tackle.

Among the issues addressed are the transportation and electricity shortcomings in the region, business development to service the industry, labour issues, partnerships with First Nations, future land supply for incoming companies and people, and research and development opportunities.

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Time for power action, mayor insists – (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – May 14, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

Ontario’s energy minister is “being irresponsible” by not stepping in and ordering the conversion of the Thunder Bay Generating Station to natural gas, the city’s mayor said Monday.

Northwest leaders are trying to convince the government that the coal-fired plant must be converted to burn natural gas if the region’s energy needs are to be met.

The government put a hold on the project last fall after the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) said there are cheaper ways to meet power needs, including expanding the east-west tieline, which moves power between Northern and southern Ontario.
The province has prohibited the burning of coal for energy in Ontario after Dec. 31, 2014.

However, Mayor Keith Hobbs said, the city’s Energy Task Force (ETF) has done its homework and proven that the OPA and Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) are “out to lunch” with their estimations of the region’s power requirements.

“I believe this is stalling at its best,” Hobbs said of the government’s handling of the generating station matter. “We need to get political and we need to send a message to (Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli) that that plant needs to be kept open and converted, plain and simple.

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The City of Thunder Bay, together with Fort William First Nation (FWFN) and the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) has initiated a Mining Readiness Strategy to address and strategically plan for growth in Thunder Bay and the Northwestern Ontario Region. The Strategy is a major step forward to help guide all of Northwestern Ontario in capitalizing on the many opportunities that mining development is expected to bring to the Region.

The Strategy can be downloaded at:


Introduction and Strategy Context

The Northwestern Ontario region is forecasting significant growth in mineral exploration and mining development. This growth is expected to result in substantial economic and social development for Thunder Bay, its surrounding municipalities and First Nation communities. The discovery and development of major gold deposits, nickel and chromite in Northwestern Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” and other mineral resources are expected to create a variety of business opportunities that positively influence the Region’s economic outlook. This growth will place unique pressures on infrastructure and government services as well as the current, and future, mining labour market.

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Bob Rae will serve all interests [in Ring of Fire] (Thunder Bay Editorial – May 13, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

CONFIRMATION that Bob Rae will negotiate for First Nations in the Ring of Fire mining belt should please all parties involved. Ensuring First Nations have an influential place at the table is essential to their full and fair inclusion in the biggest potential economic development in recent Ontario history. But it is not just the Matawa First Nations who should welcome the longtime MP and former Liberal leader to the table.

Governments have been flailing away on this file for years, trying to come to some sort of agreement on how to negotiate the ways in which First Nations are to be involved in development. Not what to negotiate, mind you, but how.

Government comes at this with a formal model that differs greatly from how aboriginal people talk to other people. Matawa has known and trusted Rae since he visited individual First Nations as Ontario NDP leader. He has held various responsibilities for First Nations activities at Queen’s Park and in Ottawa and he is clearly one of the few senior Canadian political figures who enjoy the confidence of First Nations.

Industry, too, should welcome Rae to the mining development talks since they have been caught between First Nations and government on most occasions when exploration is undertaken.

“ . . . There are many different public interests that need to be served in this regard and that’s certainly something I want to make sure happens,” Rae said back in March when he was first identified as Matawa’s choice.

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North Ontario not yet ready – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal Editorial (April 29, 2013)

Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

A SECOND look at Northwestern Ontario’s latest mining boom confirms the good news contained in the first. It also accentuates the fact that the region is woefully short of the mining readiness that is the plan.

Last fall, a business group examined nascent mining developments across the North. They focused on nine of the most promising, including the big Ring of Fire belt. They found $135 billion in unmined metals and minerals, 13,000 new jobs in the Northwest alone and potential tax revenue to all levels of government totalling $16 billion.

The study also identified three potential pitfalls: Aboriginal involvement, labour market dynamics and infrastructure in terms of roads, rail and electricity.

At the annual Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association conference last week, Thunder Bay’s Mining Readiness Strategy confirmed the rosy outlook as well as the fact much remains unready. Thunder Bay is smart to have a powerful strategy group looking into the opportunities and challenges. But the task will require immense participation by all communities in the region, especially First Nations which stand to benefit as much as any.

Ontario is showing remarkable new interest in Northern Ontario since Kathleen Wynne became premier. But a province that desperately needs economic development cannot succeed without a reliable power supply. The two reports into mining confirm the apparent disconnect between power planners and power needs.

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