Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli will lead a sales mission to the Ring of Fire some time this winter.
The Ring of Fire is about 530 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay and is the site of a cluster of world-class, multi-generational chromite deposits. Chromite is processed into ferrochrome which is used in the making of stainless steel.
Ohio-based Cliffs Natural Resources is the leading mining player in the region with its flagship Black Thor deposit.
During the last provincial election, Fedeli said he would lead a mission of interested companies from his riding to the base camp.
“Now the time has come to do this and we have spoken with several North Bay and Nipissing companies that have expressed an interest in coming,” he said.
Fedeli visited the Ring of Fire base camp last August as a private citizen and said the trip there “is complicated.”
“It took eight flights to get there and back.”
Visitors land on a gravel airstrip in Webequie, the First Nation community closest to the Ring of Fire. A float plane is then taken and lands about a kilometre from the base camp. However, a helicopter is required for the last leg of the journey or by snowmobile in winter.
“Whether it is a package of crackers or a 50 gallon drum of diesel fuel, it all has to make that same trip to get there,” Fedeli said. “When I realized all that, I thought of the opportunities for our Nipissing companies.”
When first descending on the base camp, the MPP said he recognized the blue and white striped tents as those manufactured by Canadian Can-Tex in Rutherglen, which is in his riding.
“A big smile came over my face since I realized we have a Nipissing presence here,” he said. “Then one step off the helicopter, I saw a massive field of drill rods and in Nipissing, we have almost a dozen companies that make them.
“There are products here that we manufacture in Nipissing that could and should be in the Ring of Fire. It's the largest mining find of the century and I want those companies to be at the front door.”
Winter was determined to be the best time for the trip since snowmobiles and not helicopters can be utilized for the last leg of the journey, which is less expensive.
The group is small, due to the small size of the planes. (Plans were still underway at press time.)
“You can only understand the challenges and opportunities in the Ring of Fire when you stand there and get your feet on the ground and your hand in the dirt,” Fedeli said.
Fedeli said visiting the base camp also provided him with an interesting sense of history by being able to stand in a mining camp that one day will become a community.
He is excited about the opportunities for Nipissing companies and wants them to have a leg up and an edge.
“Part of the job as a politician is to deliver something to the taxpayers and that is what I am doing,” he said.