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Getting noticed

The Ring of Fire needs the attention of southern Ontario.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce vice-president Josh Hjartarson authored a report on the potential impact of the Ring of Fire. (Jodi Lundmark,

The Ring of Fire needs the attention of southern Ontario.

"I'm a Northern Ontario person and I understand the impact of projects like this on Northern Ontario and on southern Ontario but not very many people do," said Paul Semple, the chief operating officer of Noront Resources.

"I think when people realize there are manufacturing opportunities, there's other opportunities that start from the south, they'll see the significance of this project to Ontario."

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a report titled Beneath the Surface: Uncovering the Economic Potential of Ontario's Ring of Fire last week stating that once the project ia active, it will generate up to $9.4 billion in GDP over 10 years and sustain up to 5,500 jobs annually.

At a luncheon hosted by the local chamber of commerce to discuss the report at the Airlane Hotel Wednesday, Semple said the importance of the report is raising awareness of the Ring of Fire throughout Ontario, not just in the North.

"We tell the story to everyone who wants to listen," he said.

"I don't think the average person in southern Ontario would get it because they don't have some tie to mining but I think it goes a lot further than that."

Ontario chamber vice-president Josh Hjartarson authored the report and said that awareness is the crucial variable that's been missing.

"The most important thing we can do right now is put pressure on all the actors out there to say 'hey, this isn't just a Thunder Bay plan,'" he said.

"It is an Ontario-wide play."

The report has 13 recommendations to move the Ring of Fire forward including getting the federal and provincial governments to commit to infrastructure funding.

The project will generate $2 billion in government revenue so they need to see the Ring of Fire as an investment that they will see a return on, said Hjartarson.

The Ring of Fire needs to be made a national priority like the oilsands in Alberta and an infrastructure plan is required to do that.

"We need to land the plan. We need to land the financing," said Hjartarson.

Semple said the infrastructure requirement in Northwestern Ontario is big and it links not only to the mines but to the communities.

"We need to look at it from a starting point - how do we start the infrastructure development and get on with it rather than trying to solve the ultimate problem today," he said.

"Let's get some production. Let's get some industrial involvement. Let's create some jobs. Let's put some people to work and then we'll build out logically from there."

While Nishnawbe Aski Nation has yet to take a position on the Ring of Fire, Grand Chief Harvey Yesno took part in Wednesday's discussion and said there is a lot of interest by First Nations.

"Other First Nations throughout the territory are watching what's happening," he said, noting they've observed other mines in the areas like Musselwhite Mine.

Although NAN is leaving most of the discussion up to Matawa First Nations, the collection of communities closest to the Ring of Fire area, Yesno said he does think First Nations are being left out of the process in some respects, particularly the revenue sharing.

The report mentions how there will be revenue return for the federal, provincial and municipal governments but First Nations were left out.

"If you want a real partnership in the north, at least with our group, we're saying we need a recognition of a third order of government. Therefore, a third of the revenues going forward and let's move forward as equal partners," Yesno said.


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