Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government has promised $1 billion toward infrastructure to access the Ring of Fire mineral development in northern Ontario.

Wynne was in Thunder Bay, Monday, with Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, to announce that Ontario will support the First Nations communities in a plan to construct an east-west road connecting the Webequie and Nibinamik communities to the provincial highway network north of Pickle Lake.

The building of access roads is an essential step in the development and the Wynne government has been in negotiations with several First Nations on the construction of a year-round road to access the proposed mining development site being pursued by Noront Resources Ltd. The province is also working with First Nations to build all-season access roads to their communities.

The Ring of Fire is one of the biggest mineral-development opportunities in Ontario in almost a century. Funding for these roads is part of the government’s commitment to invest in infrastructure that, according to the Ontario government, will help to create jobs, provide long-term benefits, and improve quality of life for people in the region.

Communities are working to begin environmental assessments of these projects by January 2018 and plan to begin construction in 2019, pending all necessary approvals.