Gravelle made the comments a day after the province signed what he called an “historic landmark” framework agreement with the nine communities of the Matawa First Nations on how to move forward with mineral and community development in the Ring of Fire, a massive mineral deposit in a remote section of northwestern Ontario.
The framework agreement, Gravelle said, will set out the principles and guidelines for more formal discussions on issues such as resource revenue sharing, enhanced environmental assessments and socio-economic support for First Nations.
Gavelle said it is hoped the federal government will match whatever the province invests into infrastructure — especially much-needed roads — to kickstart development.
Gravelle said he has been in ongoing discussions with Greg Rickford, the recently appointed federal Natural Resources minister, about the Ring of Fire.
“Whatever transportation structure is put in place it should include opportunities for access to communities,” Gravelle said.
Road access to the Ring of Fire has been a contentious issue.
Ohio-based miner Cliffs Natural Resources has called for a north-south road to the Ring of Fire, while junior miner Noront Resources, which owns properties in the Ring of Fire, has said an east-west road would make more economic sense, and would benefit the nearby First Nation communities more.
But Cliffs ceased work on its $3.3-billion Ring of Fire development in 2013 due to a number of major hurdles. Those included lack of agreements with First Nations in the area and a lost appeal to the Ontario Mining Commission late last year that would have allowed the company an easement on the property to begin planning the necessary infrastructure.
Gravelle said with a framework agreement in place, the Ring of Fire Development Corporation, established by Deloitte Canada, will be able to include First Nations in any deliberations.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has said the Ring of Fire is expected to generate $25 billion in economic activity across numerous sectors in the province over its first 32 years of development. In the same period, it would generate an estimated $6.7 billion in government tax revenues.