TORONTO—Combining traditional roadways with hovercrafts could help speed up the development of Ontario resource-rich Ring of Fire, according to a new paper.
Published by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, the paper, Beneath the Surface: Uncovering the Economic Potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire, urges Ottawa to “take on a more active role” in developing the region in the James Bay Lowlands, and pushes Ontario to team up with the private sector to find alternative modes of transportation to “facilitate year-round access to the Ring of Fire.”
One of those alternatives is to use traditional roadways in conjunction with hovercrafts as a short-term solution in order to move infrastructure material to communities and mine sites while permanent transportation routes are built.
With an estimated $1.74-billion needed to build roads, railways and power transmission for the region more than 500 kilometres north of Timmins, Ont., the paper proposes the public-private cooperation in order to “facilitate year-round access to the Ring of Fire.”
“The Ring of Fire is 330 (kilometres) from the nearest highway, making construction a costly proposition,” the report reads.
The paper notes that, while no consensus solution has been reached, miner Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. has proposed an all-season north-south road running to the resource basin, which carries an estimated price tag of $500-million.
Exploration firm KWG Resources Inc. has proposed an alterate north-south railway to Nakina, Ont., which has access to the the Trans-Canada Highway and is considered a more affordable long-term option, while Noront Resources Ltd. has proposed an east-west all-weather corridor running from its Eagle’s Nest mine site to Pickle Lake, about 540 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont., by road.
A pair of electricity transmission projects have also been proposed.
“The infrastructure challenge is a significant barrier to the region’s development,” the paper reads. “However, our analysis demonstrates that both the government and the private sector will recoup the costs of their investment in a relatively short time.”
So short, in fact, the chamber estimates that development of the Ring of Fire would generate nearly $2-billion in government revenue—divided between the federal, provincial, and municipal levels—within the first 10 years.
Despite the economic activity and jobs development of the region is expected to create, the paper said not enough is being done at this stage to move forward.
“To date, neither the federal government, the provincial government or the private sector have committed substantial funds to the development
of infrastructure,” it reads.
The chamber did however applaud the province’s creation of the Ring of Fire Development Corp. as a step in the right direction toward infrastructure development.
The paper also encourages the federal government to match any provincial investments put towards developing the region, which the chamber estimates could generate up to $9.4-billion in new economic activity over the first 10 years of operation.