In February we released an analysis of the economic potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire, the mineral resource-rich area of approximately 5,120 sq. km located in the James Bay Lowlands region of Northern Ontario.
As part of this release, we held a series of Ring of Fire panels in communities across Ontario (Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Timmins, and Toronto). The following are the top five take-aways from these panels.
1. The Ring of Fire is not just another “infrastructure project”
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of development is the lack of physical infrastructure in Ontario’s Far North. In Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Timmins, and Toronto, the conclusion was unanimous: the Ring of Fire requires major infrastructure investments from the provincial and federal governments. Ring of Fire physical infrastructure is estimated to cost $1.7 billion. It is not sufficient for the federal government to fund Ring of Fire infrastructure through the Building Canada Plan, which allocates $2.7B for Ontario infrastructure projects over a 10 year period.
2. The opportunity extends far beyond the mining sector
The Ring of Fire will generate nearly $10 billion in GDP in the first 10 years of operation and $27 billion in the first 32 years of operation. Companies from sectors including mining, manufacturing, utilities, engineering, energy, and wholesale and retail trade told us that the development of the Ring of Fire will benefit their businesses directly.
3. Awareness lags in Southern Ontario
While the Ring of Fire will always make headlines in Northern Ontario, that is not the case in the south. However, an increasing number of businesses in southern Ontario, particularly those in the financial services and mining supply and services sectors, are coming to realize the value of the Ring of Fire.
4. Aboriginal communities are prepared to be patient in order to land the right deal
The Ring of Fire has the potential to transform quality of life on Ontario’s Far North First Nations reserves, which currently suffer under high incidences of poverty, suicide, crime, and substance abuse. Aboriginal community representatives insist business and government treat them as equal partners in development. As Bob Rae recently noted, “in the past, development has happened without the participation of First Nations and without really addressing their needs or the concerns that First Nations communities have. It’s important for this development to take place on a different basis.”
5. Businesses want more certainty from government
Companies both large and small consistently commented that uncertainty is preventing them from investing in the Ring of Fire. They called on government to work with them to make decisions around regulation, infrastructure, electricity pricing, and Aboriginal partnerships. As one Sudbury panelist put it: “before I go back to my shareholders and ask them to invest in Ontario, I need to be sure that any undue risks have been mitigated.”
Special thanks to the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, and the Timmins Chamber of Commerce for hosting these panels.