While the province reaffirmed its $1-billion commitment to transportation infrastructure for the Ring of Fire, the timeline for any government spending remains murky.
Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas expressed her disappointment after the Liberals announced the budget April 23 that the Ring of Fire funding had been taken out of the budget and pushed back to 2018, when Ontarians are due to return to the polls.
“Whenever a government makes a promise that depends on winning the next election, there's reason to start to doubt their commitment,” Gélinas told NorthernLife.ca. “It's a huge step backwards for the Ring of Fire.”
Gélinas got the 2018 date from a graphic on page 54 of the budget, which depicted some provincial government funding commitments with red arrows pointing to the right. Below the arrows was a timeline of dates, starting at 2014-15, and ending at 2023-24.
The $1 billion in promised infrastructure funding for the Ring of Fire appeared to start in 2018-19, and continued past the 2023-24 date.
But in an email to NorthernLife.ca, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines said it's too early to say when construction will begin on any infrastructure in the Ring of Fire region.
“Among other things, timing of development in the region is dependent on the outcome of the work of the Ring of Fire Development Corporation,” the email said. “The footnote for the chart on page 54 of the 2015 Budget indicates that figures are approximate and that project timing is subject to outcome of consultations, planning, design, and environmental approvals.”
According to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the Ring of Fire's remote mineral deposits have the potential to generate up to $9.4 billion in economic activity over 10 years and sustain 5,500 jobs annually.
In March 2015, junior miner Noront Resources signed a $20-million deal with Cliffs Natural Resources to acquire 103 of the company's claims in the Ring of Fire.
Once the transaction is completed, Noront will hold around 360 mining claims, or roughly 80,000 hectares of the emerging mining camp known as the Ring of Fire, located 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.