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Mining giant Cliffs Natural Resources' decision to halt work on the largest project in northern Ontario's Ring of Fire region has aroused a sudden interest in the lumbering development. The opposition at Queen's Park pounced to lay blame on the province for the squandered opportunity. While no one denies that Cliffs' move is a game changer, the looming question is whether it's a game ender. Fault will inevitably be assigned: was it that First Nations were "anti-development"? Was the province too slow or too unorganized to act? Or did the miner misjudge how quickly they could put a shovel in the ground? Any attempt to analyze what went wrong, and whether it can be put right, must go far beyond those surface level questions.
Ontario needs to leverage much more value-added manufacturing from its rich mineral resources like South Africa and Finland. The Ring of Fire will create thousands of mining, transportation and supply and service jobs. But thousands of additional, well paying, value-added jobs could be secured if Ontario successfully attracts one or more stainless steel mills.
One of the major concerns about chromite is about the reliability of the top three producers which account for almost 80 per cent of world supply. South Africa and Kazakhstan have political stability issues while India is concerned about security of supply for its own industrialization, making the high-quality chromite deposits in Ontario enormously attractive.
With multi-billion dollar projects adrift in the James Bay lowlands, really, is this how Ontarians want to see their future resources managed? With this outcome, the Ring of Fire now heads into the deep-freeze -- the last five years squandered -- the next five years now left to litigation lawyers to advance private interests.