The Ring of Fire is a new mining camp in Ontario’s far north, holding significant chromite and base metal deposits. Plans are already underway to develop a chromite open pit mine by Cliffs Natural Resources and a copper/nickel mine by Noront Resources. The Ring of Fire has the potential to become one of the most significant mineral regions in the country, comparable to the legendary Sudbury Basin and the Abitibi-Greenstone belt that includes Timmins and Kirkland Lake. Its mineral wealth will probably be measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars at the very least – a historically and globally significant discovery.
You recently suggested that Northern Ontario needs a Mining Marshall Plan? What are the most important parts of your plan?
The three most important issues are infrastructure, power rates and the Far North Act. Governments must make significant investments in a rail or road into the Ring of Fire. This will result in enormous mineral development and tax revenues for a practically bankrupt provincial treasury. Power rates must be subsidized to major industries in Northern Ontario – similar to what is done in Quebec and Manitoba – if we want job producing refineries to locate in this province. The Far North Act, which is bitterly opposed by First Nations, the mining sector, northern communities and chambers of commerce must be significantly changed to ensure a prosperous mining sector.
Your blog makes numerous references to First Nations in Northern Ontario and their importance to mining. Why?
The mining sector is the largest employer of Aboriginal people in the country. Many of the new mines in northern Canada will be on traditional Aboriginal territory. Most Aboriginal communities are impoverished and it is both morally right and economically smart due to pending labour shortages that the current generation of native youth greatly benefits from this mineral boom. Governments and industry must step up and build the social and infrastructure capacities in First Nation communities to actively participate in this commodity supercycle.
You are originally from Sudbury. What do you think the future of mining will hold for this community?
Sudbury is the luckiest major city in the country. There are four globally significant mining clusters that will generate future growth and prosperity. First, there are the mines and related infrastructure producing much needed nickel, copper, PGMs and other minerals for a resource hungry world. Many industry experts believe we will still be mining here a century from now. Second, Northern Ontario and especially Sudbury is the base for the largest Canadian cluster of hardrock mining supply and service companies – worth $5.3 billion in sales annually and growing.
Thirdly, there is the largest cluster of post-secondary mining education in Canada that will also grow with the recent announcement of Laurentian’s International School of Mines initiative. And finally, there is the mining research at CEMI, Vale, Xstrata and other locations that will continue to put this region and community on the mining map.