Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said the province is not yet ready to announce a development corporation to lead infrastructure decisions around the Ring of Fire, despite a nearing self-imposed deadline.
Gravelle was not able to share new information regarding the long-awaited development corporation at the 2014 Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference in Sudbury.
The annual gathering of Canada's provincial, territorial and federal mines and energy ministers is an opportunity for them to share best practices and build partnerships.
During her Speech from the Throne on July 3, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the government would establish a Ring of Fire development corporation within 60 days.
“Your government commits $1 billion for transportation infrastructure to help access the Ring of Fire,” she said during the speech. “Your government will continue its efforts to bring the federal government to the table as a willing and active partner, and will seek a matching federal commitment to seize the opportunity for Ontario and Canada that lies in the Ring of Fire.”
According to a February report from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the nickel and chromite deposits in the Ring of Fire could generate up to $9.4 billion in economic activity over 10 years and sustain 5,500 jobs annually.
“We will meet the commitment,” Gravelle said in an interview, regarding the province's self-imposed deadline to launch the Ring of Fire development corporation.
That will give the province until early September to make an announcement.
It will be the development corporation's responsibility to decide how the province's $1-billion commitment to infrastructure in the Ring of Fire should be spent.
Gravelle said through discussions with First Nations and industry partners, four or five ideas have been proposed for infrastructure development in the Ring of Fire.
Those ideas range from what sort of infrastructure should be built – rail or road – to what direction it should follow – a north-south route or an east-west route.
While the province has already made its $1-billion commitment to Ring of Fire infrastructure, it has also asked the federal government to make the same commitment.
“I believe it's absolutely crucial that the federal government is able to match the substantial $1-billion contribution we've made for infrastructure,” Gravelle said.
But in an interview Monday, Greg Rickford, Canada's minister of natural resources and FedNor, said the federal Conservatives are not ready to make the same $1-billion commitment to the Ring of Fire the province has made.
Rickford said the feds have already made investments in the nearby First Nations to increase their educational opportunities.
He said future federal funding for the Ring of Fire will need to be tied to specific projects with precise goals.
The 2014 Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference continues today.