Mining companies, government must work together in Ring of Fire development

Controversy surrounding  the development of a chromite mining operation in northern Ontario’s remote “Ring of Fire” illustrates the need for mining companies to work together with various constituencies, according to one senior mining law practitioner.

Norman Findlay of Bennett Jones LLP also believes that the government of Ontario has to do more to show that the province is “open for business” and act as an intermediary between all the various interests involved. 

Cliffs Natural Resources and the Ontario government announced in May that they had signed a $3.3 billion framework agreement to develop the company’s Black Thor chromite deposit, including building a smelter near Sudbury, developing a transportation corridor to the site and constructing an open-pit mine. Cliffs is currently in the midst of an environmental assessment, with plans to start construction in late 2015 — a goal that some find “highly optimistic,” according to The Globe and Mail.

Hurdles to development – lack of available infrastructure, First Nations opposition and environmental concerns – still need to be overcome before an estimated 1,200 jobs are created by the project.

The whole “Ring of Fire” area is tremendously important for Ontario and its mining industry and there was a perception that the government of Ontario was dragging its feet a little bit in getting involved. This is especially true when you compare it to what the Quebec government is doing with its Plan Nord to develop its mining industry in the North, says Findlay. 

The “Ring of Fire” belt – named for the iconic Johnny Cash song – contains the largest deposit of chromite in North America and is located around 540 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. More than 20 companies currently hold claims in the area.

Other mining companies such as Noront Resources and KWG Resources are eager to be part of the transportation development, CBC reports, but Cliffs will be taking the lead on the all-season road project.

Lexpert has previously published descriptions of Cliffs’ acquisition of Consolidated Thompson Iron Mines in 2011, and its purchase of Freewest Resources Canada in 2010.

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