The business case for Ontario’s Ring of Fire is still strong, but we need to act now and with purpose.
In Where Are We Now? A Report Card on the Ring of Fire we evaluate the progress that has been made over the past year to develop Ontario’s Ring of Fire, the name given to the large area rich in metallic mineral deposits located in the James Bay Lowlands in the province’s Far North.
Our previous economic analysis found that over the first ten years of development, the Ring of Fire will generate up to $9.4 billion in GDP, sustain up to 5,500 jobs annually, and generate $2 billion in government revenue, divided between the federal, provincial, and municipal governments.
Despite its significant potential, we are no closer today than we were a year ago to realizing the benefits of the Ring of Fire. After a year of delays, public and expert perception on the viability of the Ring of Fire as a sound economic investment has soured.
While the departure of Cliffs Natural Resources—the American iron ore firm that holds several large assets in the Ring of Fire—has left the Ring of Fire without a major mining firm capable of injecting much needed private sector capital in infrastructure, other variables have contributed to a sluggish pace of development. Among the most significant barriers to development are the absence of an agreement with First Nations communities, delays in permitting, and the reluctance of the federal government to make an explicit funding commitment to Ring of Fire infrastructure.
With these challenges in mind, we make a number of recommendations that, if implemented, would go a long way in initiating development. But we need to act now. Without significant progress over the next year, we risk lapsing into a self-fulfilling prophesy—that is, the lack of momentum will contribute to a fatalism and a long-term dampening of investor sentiment in this opportunity.