Dotted with lucrative gold mines like Red Lake, Hemlo, Musselwhite and Timmins, along with the nickel belt of Sudbury, Ontario with its storied mining history should be a prospector’s dream. In fact the province’s allure as a mining jurisdiction has never been duller, despite the promise of the Ring of Fire and a number of prospective gold properties.
Participants at a consultation forum earlier this week took the opportunity to blame the Ontario government for concentrating its efforts on the Ring of Fire – a chromite-rich development project in the James Bay lowlands of Northern Ontario – and neglecting other mining projects that would be easier to access than the remote Ring of Fire, which lacks key infrastructure for mining.
“There’s no tacit recognition by this provincial government that it believes in mining,” said Gino Chitaroni, president of the Northern Prospectors Association, in an article posted Friday in Northern Ontario Business. “All we hear about is the Ring of Fire. Let me explain something about the Ring of Fire, it’s not the only thing going on in this province. I’m sick to death of it.”
Chitaroni told industry players at the session, hosted by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, that “he could think of eight to 10 mining projects in eastern Ontario alone, that would be viable with some investment, and much easier to access than the remote Ring of Fire,” according to Northern Ontario Business.
“We have a lot of projects out there that could be economic very shortly, but we have to encourage them,” Chitaroni said. “I don’t see it happening.”
Stakeholders want certainty in terms of infrastructure and electricity costs. Ontario has been criticized for having higher power rates compared to neighbouring Manitoba and Quebec, making it less competitive to producers.
In 2014 Ontario placed 23rd on the Fraser Institute’s annual survey of mining companies, falling nine places compared to the 2013 survey. Two provinces over, Saskatchewan was ranked as the world’s best mining destination.
“In Ontario, the New Mining Act amendments regarding First Nations consultation have resulted in complete incomprehensibility of rights on all sides,” Kenneth Green, Fraser Institute senior director of energy and natural resources, said upon releasing the report earlier this month.
The Ring of Fire in particular has been a disaster for Ontario in terms of industry perception. On March 12 the Ontario Chamber of Commerce graded the Ring of Fire and the results were not pretty.
The northern Ontario infrastructure project received two F’s, one for time to develop and the other for federal government commitment. The highest grade was a B- for drawing as much as possible from the local labour force and building up the skills of Ontario’s northern First Nations communities.
“Despite its significant potential, we are no closer today than we were a year ago to realizing the benefits of the Ring of Fire,” writes the reports authors.
“After a year of delays, public and expert perception on the viability of the Ring of Fire as a sound economic investment has soured.”
The authors tout the project saying the Ring of Fire would generate up to $9.4 billion in GDP, sustain up to 5,500 jobs annually, and generate $2 billion in government revenue, divided between the federal, provincial, and municipal governments.
The Ring of Fire project was dealt a major set back when Cliffs Natural Resources withdrew from Ontario operations in 2014.