Ontario has approved another small step on the long journey to build an all-season road to the Ring of Fire minerals area in the province’s far north.
The area’s most advanced project is Ring of Fire Metals’ Eagle’s Nest. According to a 2012 feasibility study, it has an 11-year mine life and an estimated cost $609 million. Proven and probable reserves are 11.1 million tonnes grading 1.68% nickel, 0.87% copper, 0.87 gram platinum per tonne, 3.09 grams palladium and 0.18 gram gold.
The province granted the terms of reference for an environmental assessment of the Northern Link road, the last terms approved among the three roads planned for the area 540 km northeast of Thunder Bay. The plans were submitted by the Webequie and Marten Falls First Nations. The Northern Link is to connect the two communities and potential mining projects.
“I value our partnership with these strong leaders who are central to our government’s mandate to develop the Ring of Fire,” George Pirie, Minister of Mines, said in a news release accompanying remarks on Monday at PDAC in Toronto. “The Ring of Fire has the critical minerals we need to build our manufacturing supply chain, including nickel for electric vehicles and chromite for clean steel.”
The cost of the roads isn’t clear although British Columbia-based The Narwhal, citing memos in the government of Premier Doug Ford, said it’s estimated at more than $2 billion.
Environmentalists and at least several Indigenous communities in the region, such as the Neskantaga First Nation and several James Bay communities such as Attawapiskat, are opposed to mining and roads they say will desecrate the area.
The boggy peatlands and muskeg swamps are difficult to build through and hold millions of tonnes of carbon. Construction would cause its release, outweighing the benefits from mining metals for green energy, they say. (Mushkegowuk Council communities have proposed their own road, however, to link some James Bay coastal communities to the provincial highway system.) Meeting mineral demand to fight climate change is one of the main planks wielded by project supporters.
“This project has the potential to finally bring economic reconciliation for remote First Nations in Ontario,” Chief Cornelius Wabasse of Webequie First Nation said in the release. “But these opportunities must also be balanced against the potential environmental and socio-cultural risks associated with building a road.”
Of the two other roads, which are already undergoing environmental assessments, one would link the Marten Falls community to the provincial highway network to the south. The other would run from the Webequie First Nation to proposed mining developments. The Northern Link is to connect the two roads. Each requires its own environmental assessment on the provincial level, while federal review may only apply to the Marten Falls and Webequie community roads and not the Northern Link, at least initially.
Ring of Fire beat out giant BHP (NYSE: BHP; LSE: BHP; ASX: BHP) for the asset after U.S.-based Cleveland-Cliffs (NYSE: CLF) pulled out of the area in 2013 even though it had already spent half a billion dollars to advance local chromite deposits.
Also at PDAC, the province awarded $5 million in grants as part of the Critical Minerals Innovation Fund supporting Ontario-based companies developing new mining technologies.
Grants of $500,000 each went to: Frontier Lithium (TSXV: FL; US-OTC: LITOF) to develop innovative lithium processing techniques; Vale Canada (NYSE: VALE) to develop bioleaching techniques to extract nickel and cobalt from tailings; Ring of Fire Metals to test storing tailings as underground backfill in mine workings. Indigenous-owned Carbonix received C$475,000 to convert mining waste, petroleum coke and other by-products into graphite for batteries. The recipients of the remaining circa $3 million weren’t mentioned.
“We’re connecting the critical minerals of the north with the manufacturing might of the south,” Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, said in the release.
Source: MINING.COM – Read More