Canada sees decades of gains from Ring of Fire deposit

Tue Mar 12, 2013 11:52am EDT
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By Euan Rocha and Janet Guttsman

TORONTO (Reuters) - Developing the Ring of Fire chromite deposit in northern Ontario could bring decades of economic benefits for the region and the rest of Canada, the federal government's point man on the challenging and ambitious venture said on Monday.

"We understand the importance of developing this series of projects. We see how important it is not only to the region, but its significance ultimately to the province and the country," Tony Clement, the minister responsible for leading the push to develop the region, told Reuters.

"We are talking about a 100 years of mining activity that will spin-off jobs and economic activity for generations," he said in an interview in the government's Toronto offices with views over Lake Ontario.

The Ring of Fire deposit, in the far north of Ontario some 1,000 miles northwest of Toronto, contains rich mineral resources that could transform the area much as the oil sands have transformed Alberta. But developing the deposit is fraught with challenges, given concerns with access, infrastructure, land rights and environmental issues.

The region will also need huge investments in power and transportation infrastructure to develop the deposit, and Clement insisted that business, rather than the cash-strapped federal government would have to take the lead.

The Ring of Fire is part of a vast resource-rich region of the James Bay Lowlands spanning 5,000 sq. kms (1,900 sq. miles) with significant deposits of nickel, copper and chromite - an ingredient used in stainless steel.

But turning the region into Canada's newest mining district will be no easy task, given the lack of roads, rail lines or reliable sources of power in the region.

Some 30 companies are exploring the region, which experts say could house billions of dollars worth of minerals. They include Cliffs Natural Resources Inc (CLF.N: Quote), the largest North American producer of iron ore pellets; as well as Canadian-based juniors such as KWG Resources Inc KWG.V, Noront Resources Ltd (NOT.V: Quote), and Probe Mines Ltd (PRB.V: Quote).   Continued...

Minister for the Federal Economic Initiative for Northern Ontario and Treasury Board President Tony Clement poses for a portrait at the Ministers' Regional Office in Toronto, Ontario March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Jon Blacker