It’s been ten years since the first discovery of nickel and copper at the Ring of Fire site in Northern Ontario. Noront Resources President and CEO Alan Coutts never believed back in 2007 when the site was first discovered that the resources would still be in the ground in 2017. Coutts says nobody would’ve guessed at the time they would still be looking for a concrete infrastructure proposal required to get the ore out of the ground. He was asked what he believes the reason is for the project moving at the pace that it has. Coutts says at the time people’s expectations for the development were enormous, and that was one of the first problems because so many people from industry and various levels of government wanted to be involved.
Another thing that slowed the process down is that as the discussions about mining the area were going on, Canadians and First Nations were coming to the realization that they had to renew their relationship and the issue of reconciliation took precedent. Coutts says that process has taken time, and it was necessary not just for the Ring of Fire but for Canada as a whole. Coutts, like former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, believes that the relationship between the Matawa First Nations, the Indigenous communities surrounding the Ring of Fire, both levels of government and members of the mining industry is in a good place.
Then there’s the issue of transportation and accessibility at the Ring of Fire site. Coutts was asked what needs to happen to get the project that’s expected to generate $60-billion in revenue for Northern Ontario going. He says the critical event that has to take place is a very clear commitment by the provincial government for road building. He says it’s not just a commitment of money, it’s a very specific commitment to build roads to the development. Coutts says that road enables everything else to get going as far as development of the first two mines, the Eagles Nest Nickel Copper mine and the Blackbird Chromite mine.
He says until the roads are built, and there’s a clear understanding of the infrastructure, they won’t be able to finance or raise the money required to make those developments. Coutts says it can’t be overstated how important this project is for Northern Ontario, but he does believe things are starting to move in the right direction.