By Joey Krackle
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) recently produced a report, entitled Digging Deeper, with the key recommendation requesting governments to develop infrastructure so that mining projects could proceed. This report emphasizes that in order to remain competitive on the world stage, the mining sector requires assistance from both the federal and Ontario government to meet rising input costs and regulatory challenges.
The OCC recommendation calls for governments to boost infrastructure spending in Northern Ontario and to coordinate infrastructure planning with Indigenous and northern interests and to broaden the mandate of the Ring of Fire Infrastructure Development Corporation so that it could carry out this task. The report makes this recommendation so that the Ring of Fire development could proceed more rapidly. KWG Resources recently announced that has signed a deal with China Rail to conduct a feasibility study to look at building a transportation corridor to handle ore and other mining operations in the Ring Of Fire Development..
Chief Peter Collins of the Fort William First Nation has frequently called for an urgent improvement in the need for electrical energy in order for the Northern Superior region to be competitive in economic development and the mining industry.
“Mining is the major industry in Northern Ontario,” says Chief Collins. “We need competitive pricing in energy in order to pursue our economic development and our mining potential. We need further development of \related industries such as construction and the provision of other goods and services.”
Fort William First Nation has a registered population of 2189 of which 949 live on reserve and 1240 live off reserve according to the 2011 Census. This community formed a Community Economic Development Commission in 2006 which in turn has developed a Strategic Action Plan which is aimed at promoting business development, business retention and expansion, entrepreneurial support and opportunity promotion in industries like mining. A recent survey for this community identified nearly 10 mines in the Thunder Bay area which were active, or in mature exploration and expected to move from exploration to production between 2013 and 2017. In addition Thunder Bay is recognized as a major service centre for the region and is the site of many supply and service businesses and future opportunities.
Furthermore, the recent Ontario Auditor General (OAG) 2015 report emphasized that Hydro One service to Northern Ontario needs to be improved for industry to be competitive. The OAG report stated:” Almost one-half of Hydro One’s power outages happened in northern Ontario from 2010 to 2014, even though the province’s north represents less than 20% of Hydro One’s customers.”
Mining is the largest industry in Northern Ontario. Currently, there are over 40 mines in operation in Ontario. Last year, these sites collectively produced $11 billion worth of mineral product, more than any other province or territory in Canada. According to an analysis released by the Ontario Mining Association, each additional $1 billion of mineral production in Ontario contributes $858 million to the province’s GDP and creates nearly 4,500 jobs. In Ontario, Aboriginal employment accounts for 9.7 percent of total mining jobs.
In order to meet their future demands for electrical energy and economic development, six Northern Superior Anishinabek First Nations, namely Fort William, Red Rock Indian Band, Pays Plat , Ojibways of Pic River, Pic Mobert and Michipicoten partnered to create Bamkushwada Ltd. Partnership (BLP). BLP then partnered with Nextbridge Infrastructure to complete the East-West Tie Transmission Project which is approximately 430 kilometers of double-circuit 230 kilovolt transmission line connecting the Wawa Transformer Station to the Lakehead Transformer station in Thunder Bay with a connection approximately mid-way to the Marathon Transmission Station. The six First Nations have also acquired partial ownership of the project.
This project is required to ensure the long-term reliability of the electricity supply in northwestern Ontario. Industrial activities, particularly in mining, are expected to drive strong electricity supply in this area. The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) has identified that supply needs for the northwest can be met with additional transmission generation. After analysis, OPA recommended expansion of the East-West Tie based on technical, economic and other considerations. Nextbridge Infrastructure has conducted extensive consultations with First Nations and Métis communities and the public. The target-in-service date is 2020.