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Ring of Fire holds huge potential to share the wealth

April 23, 2014

Virtually every sector of the economy would benefit from the responsible development of the mineral rich Ring of Fire area, according to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce study Beneath the Surface: Uncovering the Economic Potential of Ontario’s Ring of Fire.  This paper believes that in the first decade of its development, the Ring of Fire could generate up to $9.4 billion in GDP, sustain 5,500 jobs annually and generate $2 billion in tax revenue for governments.

“Ontario, now more than ever, must identify and champion opportunities where it can be a global leader,” said Allan O’Dette, President of the OCC.  “The Ring of Fire is such an opportunity.  We believe that this globally significant deposit of minerals in Ontario’s Far North is one of the province’s greatest economic development opportunities in a generation.”

The jobs and positive economic development opportunities created by the Ring of Fire will be shared throughout many other sectors of the economy.  The OCC’s analysis sees major benefits going to the financial services, wholesale trade, retail trade, manufacturing and utilities sectors.

While the direct impact is on the mining sector, the indirect and induced benefits also reach into professional, scientific and technical services; finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing; information services, administrative and support systems and construction.  Not lost in this process is the linking of isolated First Nations communities to the provinces road, electricity and communications networks.

Many conservatively peg the value of known minerals in the Ring of Fire at $60 billion.  The OCC in its report says the area holds “significant deposits of copper, zinc, nickel, platinum, vanadium and gold” along with “commercial quantities of chromite” that are “significant enough to sustain activity for a century.”

The Ring of Fire is a mineral laden area covering more than 5,000 square kilometres in the James Bay lowlands.  However, it is isolated.  It is located more than 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay and more than 300 kilometres north of the nearest road and rail links at Nakina.

The OCC believes the responsible development of the Ring of Fire should be a national priority.  “The OCC is commited to playing its part in pushing forward the development of the Ring of Fire.  We have identified next steps.  And, we will report progress against them,” says Beneath the Surface.  “We will also take every opportunity to trumpet the potential of this mining development.  We hope you will join us.  By working together, we can make sure that this opportunity does not pass us by.”

The OCC Ring of Fire study was released in February.  While the positive economic impact of the area itself is not news, it is time to re-emphasize the breadth and depth of what the Ring of Fire could mean for most sectors of Ontario’s economy and many of its communities in all regions of the province.

The challenges facing the development of the Ring of Fire and building its necessary infrastructure are deemed to be “surmountable” by the OCC.  These need to be met because without this infrastructure, business professors and economists will remind us that the net worth of minerals in the ground is a theoretical zero.

The OCC’s Beneath the Surface study relies on the OMA as one its sources.  Two papers by University of Toronto economists Peter Dungan and Steve Murphy completed for the OMA are cited.  They are the 2007 analysis Ontario Mining: A Partner in Prosperity Building and the 2012 study Mining: Dynamic and Dependable for Ontario’s Future.

In addition, the OMA Action Plan for Ontario (2011) and Facts & Figures (2014) from the OMA website are cited as sources.  Also, key personnel from several OMA member companies were interviewed for the OCC study along with OMA President Chris Hodgson.

The yet to be fulfilled potential of the Ring of Fire is something everyone has a vested interest in seeing materialize, whether they appreciate it at this moment or not.



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