The western extension of the Ring of Fire is interrupted by the Winisk River Provincial Park, a no-go area for mineral exploration, but airborne geophysics commissioned by Rencore has identified 16 potential drill targets in the so-called REN-6 and REN-8 claim groups west of the park.
Nemis is betting on the Ring of Fire as a multi-mineral district hosting chromite, nickel, copper, platinum group minerals and gold.
There have already been eight or nine discoveries in the area, including five or six by Noront, but money isn’t as easy to raise as it was several years ago and a lot of work on these properties has to be done to fully understand the size of the deposits and their viability. A lack of progress on the infrastructure front isn’t helping.
“There’s not a lot of activity up there now,” complained Nemis. “The cost of doing business in the Ring of Fire is huge and it’s hard to raise money because of the uncertainty. If the financiers in downtown Toronto see any kind of risk, they move on to the next thing. They’re looking at it and saying ‘We love the Hudson Bay Lowlands and we think there’s going to be all kinds of things found in the future, but we don’t know when that’s going to happen, so our money is going to go to shorter term opportunities.’”
When there is some clarity on the issue of infrastructure, “everything up there will boom,” said Nemis.
“When it first hit the headlines, it was a big discovery. Well, it’s still a big discovery. Orebodies don’t go away.”
Quebec’s $80 billion Plan Nord, aimed at unlocking that province’s northern treasures, is the kind of initiative Nemis would like to see in Ontario. “The faster you can put in infrastructure, the faster you get your costs of exploration and development down,” he said.
While a railroad to the Noront Resources Eagle’s Nest and Cliffs Natural Resources chromium deposits may ultimately be the best option, a road north from Nakina could serve as a less expensive, short-term solution, he said.
Who would own a railroad to the Ring of Fire is anyone’s guess. It could be a consortium made up of the province, Cliffs Natural Resources, First Nation groups, and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, or “it could be a big Chinese company that comes in and takes over Cliffs because $2 billion for some of these guys is chicken feed,” said Nemis.
Also holding up progress on the development of the Ring of Fire is the uncertainty over negotiations with the First Nation communities, he warned.
“Sure, you have to discuss with them and enter into a memorandum of understanding as to how you’re going to operate together and who’s going to get what, but make it clear,” he urged.
Nemis points to the positive relations he had with First Nation communities while serving as president of Noront Resources and to the current relationship Rencore has negotiated with the Webiquie First Nation, but warns that excessive and unreasonable demands could easily scare investors away.
Nemis, along with John Harvey, Don Hoy, Neil Novak and Mac Watson, won the Bill Dennis Award from the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada in 2009 for their efforts in the Ring of Fire discoveries. In fact, it was Nemis who gave the Ring of Fire its name over lunch one day with John Harvey and Robert Cudney of Northfield Capital.
The rim, or the outer edge of the structure, is volcanogenic, hosting copper and zinc, while the ring, or the inside of the structure hosts magmatic sulphides, including nickel, copper, platinum, palladium and chromite that came up from deep in the earth’s core.
“So we called it the Ring of Fire after Johnny Cash’s famous song. It was a catchy name and it stuck,” said Nemis. “We even named the drills after Johnny, June and the kids.”
Harvey, a former senior vice-president of exploration with Noranda Inc. and former COO of Noront, has joined Nemis as COO of Rencore and Bold. Also back on the team are David Graham, another former vice-president at Noront, Jim Mungall, Norman Keevil Chair of Ore Genesis at the University of Toronto, and geophysicist Scott Hogg.
With his old team in place, two new companies and $10 million in the bank, Nemis is intent on finding “the next big elephant” in Northern Ontario.