Ont. premier asks feds for help with Ring of Fire

Jessica Hume. (Andre Forget/QMI AGENCY)

By Jessica Hume, National Bureau

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. (Stan Behal/QMI Agency)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. (Stan Behal/QMI Agency)


OTTAWA - Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne arrived in Ottawa Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the stalled development of the so-called Ring of Fire -- a proposed mining project in Northern Ontario that could bring about $60 billion in revenues.


Development of the Ring of Fire has been ongoing for years, and last month experienced a severe setback when one American company with a major stake in the proposed project, Cliffs Natural Resources, laid off its staff and packed it in, citing lack of progress on building the infrastructure needed to get this project underway.


Wynne told reporters she hasn't come with a list of demands but with hopes of finding a way to co-operate.

"There is agreement among all parties that the Ring of Fire is a huge opportunity for the North, for Ontario and for the country," she said. "This is the biggest deposit of chromite and other minerals in the world, and so it's very important that we all work together."

Wynne is looking to convince the feds to match the cost of development, which the province has estimated could range from $800 million to $1 billion, with additional funds needed to connect the Ring of Fire to neighbouring communities.

"There's infrastructure that's going to have to be built," Wynne said.

Last month Wynne announced a development corporation that would bring public and private partners together; she hopes to convince Harper to bring the feds on board. "It would be reasonable, I think, to have the federal government at the table as part of that development corporation," she said.

Earlier in the day, Greg Rickford, the minister of state for northern economic development, accused Wynne of not being open enough with the feds about her plans.

"I guess if we had a message for the province today it would be to emphasize collaboration," he said. "We've had a couple of announcements that we weren't apprised of that ... we would have liked to know a little more about."

The government, and recently Harper himself, have referred to the Ring of Fire as a provincial issue, within provincial jurisdiction.

Wynne appeared to reject that, at least in part, reminding the feds they have provided about $130 million to a transmission line in B.C. and more than $6 billion in loans to for Labrador's Lower Churchill hydroelectricity project.

"This is a project of national interest," Wynne said. "The same way there's been projects in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador. I hope (Harper) would see this as an opportunity for the federal government to be involved."


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