For crying out loud, I continue to be astonished with our collective Canadian obsession over the Klondike Gold Rush while northern Ontario's rich and vibrant mining history is completely ignored by the Toronto media establishment, especially the CBC.
Located 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, the Ring of Fire mining camp contains billions worth of chromite -- among the best deposits in the wo...
If I were to make a PSA about the difference between mainstream schools and northern Aboriginal schools, I would start with a shot of a classroom in the Ontario's south. I'm in a classroom in the Orangeville, Ontario area. I show them pictures, a bit of video, and talk about our students in Canada's Aboriginal Communities. I tell them to imagine the classroom they're in is actually in the north. They're drinking bottled water or their parents are boiling it for five minutes for safety. Their food is three to five times as expensive as in the south. They realize that, in the short time they've been on this planet, they have had so much.
It's important to note that Aboriginal people were excluded from participating in the economy for much of Canadian history. To state that not being able to leave the reservation so to speak was a hindrance to doing business is the understatement of the century. Many Canadians don't realize that in a very short period of time the explosion of Aboriginal business in Canada is the most under-reported good news story in a generation. It's important to note that Aboriginal Peoples were excluded from participating in the economy for much of Canadian history. To state that not being able to leave the reservation so to speak was a hindrance to doing business is the understatement of the century.
Mining giant Cliffs Natural Resources' decision to halt work on the largest project in northern Ontario's Ring of Fire region has aroused a sudden interest in the lumbering development. The opposition at Queen's Park pounced to lay blame on the province for the squandered opportunity. While no one denies that Cliffs' move is a game changer, the looming question is whether it's a game ender. Fault will inevitably be assigned: was it that First Nations were "anti-development"? Was the province too slow or too unorganized to act? Or did the miner misjudge how quickly they could put a shovel in the ground? Any attempt to analyze what went wrong, and whether it can be put right, must go far beyond those surface level questions.
Ontario needs to leverage much more value-added manufacturing from its rich mineral resources like South Africa and Finland. The Ring of Fire will create thousands of mining, transportation and supply and service jobs. But thousands of additional, well paying, value-added jobs could be secured if Ontario successfully attracts one or more stainless steel mills.
One of the major concerns about chromite is about the reliability of the top three producers which account for almost 80 per cent of world supply. South Africa and Kazakhstan have political stability issues while India is concerned about security of supply for its own industrialization, making the high-quality chromite deposits in Ontario enormously attractive.
The stalled Ring of Fire mining project finds itself at a critical crossroads with governments in Ottawa and Ontario needing to work together now more than ever. That will mean leadership that actually engages all parties and contributes to sustainable development.
Approximately 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, in the James Bay Lowlands, sits an estimated $30-50 billion worth of untapped mineral resources. When developed, this exciting discovery will potentially transform the region, create thousands of jobs and enhance the future economic prosperity for Ontario. Realizing the full potential of the Ring of Fire is an extremely complex undertaking.
You've likely heard about the Ring of Fire boom in Ontario's Far North. What seemed a race to extract chromite, nickel and other minerals from beneath the pristine boreal forest and tundra appears to have slowed to a stroll. The slowdown creates an opportunity in the effort to protect the environment and the rights of First Nations.
Since joining Northern Superior Resources in 2002 as President and CEO, I have applied my strong belief that First Nations must be meaningfully consulted and actively engaged in exploration programs. To respect the traditional land uses of these communities is absolutely essential. At the same time, it is also very important for First Nation communities to understand what exploration is all about and the limitations of a junior mining company.
With multi-billion dollar projects adrift in the James Bay lowlands, really, is this how Ontarians want to see their future resources managed? With this outcome, the Ring of Fire now heads into the deep-freeze -- the last five years squandered -- the next five years now left to litigation lawyers to advance private interests.
What would the future look like if someone were to hit the "reset" button on the Crown-First Nations relationship and just start over? First Nations would be able to manage their own affairs. This would include the ability to access capital at wholesale rates in order to finance major infrastructure projects.
The Ring of Fire should be a cause for optimism with the ongoing jobs crisis in Ontario. The economic impact of this discovery on the Ontario economy will probably run into the hundreds of billions of dollars over time. Let's take advantage of it.