Since a major staking rush in 2007, mineral deposits in northern Ontario’s “Ring of Fire” have received considerable attention from the mining industry, the Ontario government, First Nations and non-governmental organisations. The mineral finds in the area are raising hopes about economic boom-times, while First Nations struggle to deal with the onslaught of mining claims and exploration activities on their traditional territories, and conservation groups raise concerns about protecting critical wildlife habitats and water systems.
A new report, commissioned by MiningWatch Canada and written by Joan Kuyek, cuts through the hype and raises important questions about the viability and potential benefits of developing the area’s chromite deposits.
The report points out the uncertainty around demand for stainless steel (the primary use of chromite), and the challenge that Ring of Fire proponents will have in competing with existing operations currently operating below capacity. The remote location, lack of infrastructure, power demands, and water management challenges will add costs and technical challenges to any new mine in the region.
To overcome these significant financial challenges and make their projects feasible, mining companies are counting on substantial subsidies from the Ontario government. Whether or not this would be a sound investment would depend, in part, on the potential for government revenue from operating mines. With tax credits for massive up-front capital costs and a 10-year tax holiday, Kuyek questions how much Ontario is likely to benefit.
While it doesn’t explore them in detail, the report also highlights key environmental and sustainability issues that need to be considered in assessing the proposed developments.
“So far, exploration activities in the Ring of Fire have proceeded in the old fashioned, wild-west way. Despite promises to the contrary, the Ontario government has yet to play a leadership role in ensuring responsible exploration practices, adequate consultation and consent of First Nations, or conducting a sober review of the real potential of the chromite and other mineral deposits,” commented MiningWatch’s Ramsey Hart. “We hope this report can support a well-rounded and realistic assessment of the area’s potential. If these deposits are going to be developed, we’ll only have one chance to get it right.”
Contact: Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, tel. (613) 569-3439, e-mail ramsey(at)miningwatch.ca