Shows premier thinks Ring of Fire is important
Cliffs Natural Resources executive Bill Boor said he was glad to hear the provincial government say in its Feb. 19 Speech from the Throne it would “endeavour to improve access to the Ring of Fire.”
While some have criticized the statement as vague, Boor, the company's vice-president of global ferroalloys, said he was “rather happy to see it in the list of things the new premier thinks are important.”
Cliffs hopes to develop a $3.3 billion project in the province, including a ferrochrome mine in the James Bay lowlands and a smelter in Capreol.
Boor said talks with the province about a transportation route from the Ring of Fire, as well as lower energy prices, have slowed since former Premier Dalton McGuinty stepped down last fall.
I think it may be frustrating for people who are trying to stay tuned when they're asking about the schedule...
vice-president of global ferroalloys, Cliffs Natural Resources
He said he hopes they'll get back on track now that Kathleen Wynne has been chosen as the province's new premier, and she's appointed a new cabinet.
“We've made good progress,” he said.
“We've had many months of good work on both sides. The intent is there for both to get it resolved ... But we're a little bit on a time-out right now with the transition of government.
“I'm very anxious to get back into that with the province so that we can tie that up. It's really something that needs to be put behind us.”
The slow nature of the talks has been problematic, as striking a deal with the province is critical for the project to go ahead, he said.
Cliffs is also in the midst of setting up the environmental assessment process, Boor said.
The company has hinted that development of the project could be put off until 2017 or beyond, but is officially shooting for a 2016 mine startup.
“I think it may be frustrating for people who are trying to stay tuned when they're asking about the schedule,” Boor said.
“I can say it's frustrating for me not to be able to give that information on the schedule. But we're at the point in the project where there are some key uncertainties that need to be resolved.”
Cliffs has already touched base with the new minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle, Boor said.
He said he's pleased to see Gravelle, who was also the mines minister from 2007-2011, back in the portfolio.
Boor said he's also encouraged by recent comments from Tony Clement, the federal government's Treasury Board president and the minister for FedNor. Clement said he's officially taken on federal responsibility for the Ring of Fire.
“I'm really anxious to speak to him personally and speak to him about how we can make this thing happen,” he said.
Boor said the federal government has influence when it comes to negotiating with First Nations groups in the Ring of Fire area, and may also be able to help pay for transportation infrastructure costs.
Clement told Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce members Feb. 19 that he'll be co-ordinating the government's engagement with Ring of Fire stakeholders.