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Riches for all from Ring of Fire, says Thunder Bay mayor

Monday February 27, 2012

Representatives from the City of Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation have joined together to call for government investment in infrastructure around the Ring of Fire.

The city and the First Nation say they are working towards making Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario a mining hub, like the Sudbury region.

“There are enough riches in the Ring of Fire basin for everyone here, including First Nations,” said Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs. “The riches in the Ring of Fire are enough to make Ontario a have-province.”

Hobbs said the city is still pushing to host Cliffs Resources processing facility, despite acknowledging that Thunder Bay is not the favourite to get the plant or the estimated 300-500 jobs it would bring.

Currently Sudbury is the base case for the ferrochrome processing facility, although a decision has not been made. Greenstone also wants the plant in its community.

Yet even if Thunder Bay misses out on the Cliffs processor, Hobbs said he is confident the city will be home to a number of other facilities related to mining in the Ring of Fire.

“We recognize there is a lot more to the Ring of Fire than Cliffs,” Hobbs said.

The mayor noted that he has yet to see the province and the federal government get together to formulate a development plan for the region, something the city and Aboriginal leaders have been calling for.

“We met with (Industry Canada minister) Tony Clement recently, and the Ring of Fire is on their minds,” Hobbs said. “But we’re not seeing the federal and provincial governments formulate a plan for the Ring of Fire.”

Ed Collins, the economic development officer for Fort William First Nation, said his community will benefit directly and indirectly from Thunder Bay’s involvement in mining.

He said some First Nation businesses have already started working in mining related industries, and other opportunities are available.

“It really helps our young people stay in school,” Collins said. “They’re looking at jobs when they graduate that pay them $70,000 or more per year, so its really got them excited about school.”

Both Collins and Hobbs said that while infrastructure is crucial to the region, they have no preference when it comes to the debate between a north-south or an east-west Ring of Fire transportation corridor.

Cliffs has proposed a north-south route that would see an all-weather road run north from near Nakina to the Ring of Fire. Noront Resources, on the other hand, prefers an east-south route that would run an all-weather road from Pickle Lake to Webequie.

“Aboriginal people need these roads,” Hobbs said. “The winter roads were non-existent this year, because of the weather.”

The delegation is in Toronto from February 26-28 at the Good Roads conference. They plan to meet with seven provincial ministers and present a number of ideas for the future of the region.

Besides the Ring of Fire, Hobbs also emphasized the potential for electricity generation in northwestern Ontario and the need to get communities and mines in the North off of diesel power.

“We have 800 megawatts between Wawa and Manitoba,” Hobbs said. “That’s enough to light up all of northwestern Ontario.”

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