With this Ring of Fire, I thee wed…

It is a wedding of convenience. There seems to be little love lost between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. It is likely she only wants him for his money. She needs it to build an all-season road 500 kilometres north from Thunder Bay to the Ring of Fire. When you add the infrastructure costs, you are only talking a couple billion. Just call it her bride’s price.

Ladies do love their rings! The chromite, nickel, gold, platinum and palladium deposits discovered in the area called the Ring of Fire Belt are estimated to be worth as much as $60 billion. That figure not only rivals the potential of the Athabasca Tar Sands in Alberta but is far less of a pollution problem.

American mining company, Cliffs Natural Resources left the province at the alter last week but this is more likely to be a negotiating tactic than a long-term rift with the province. The company is jealously guarding its already purchased mining rights in the area. Why the government is eager to deal with a company such as Cleveland-based Cliffs is the real question? The province has been ripped off for many years by people stripping resources and shipping them out of the country, providing little opportunity or jobs for the people of Ontario.

One of the strengths seen in the Ring of Fire negotiations is that Former Premier and Member of Parliament Bob Rae is working for native bands in the region. Rae is expected to negotiate upgraded living conditions in the area as well as improved job and educational opportunities.

But first somebody has to build a road. It can be a paved road or a railroad but it has to provide the ability to access the area and bring in the equipment to open the mining opportunities and then to ship out the refined product. The province needs to be reminded of the old axiom that if you build it, people will come.

While not doubting the short-term value to Ontario of opening up the Ring of Fire, it is nowhere near the economic potential of a high-speed electrified rail corridor from Quebec City to Windsor. It is Ontario’s opportunity to partner with Quebec—sure the federal government can add money—to generate continued growth for the provinces and Canada for decades to come. It is one thing to accept the bounty of our land by mining it and it is another thing to build long-term value for future generations.

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Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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