THUNDER BAY -- It may now be up to Bill Mauro to decide whether the Ring of Fire is accessed by rail or road.
That responsibility was forwarded to Ontario's Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry after the Divisional Court of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last week sided with a Cliffs Natural Resources appeal.
Cliffs had appealed a decision by the Ontario Mining and Lands Commission that was made earlier this year.
The courts became involved after KWG staked a narrow north-south corridor into the Ring of Fire in 2009 for a proposed rail line. Cliffs argued that rail is too costly and wanted the province to step in to either expropriate the land or hold a portion of it for infrastructure.
The lands commission sided with KWG but the divisional court decision set that aside and side with Cliffs.
"Whether or not it is in the public interest to grant easement for a road is a matter for the Minister of Natural Resources to determine, after an environmental assessment and consultations with First Nations and other affected interests," the decision states.
KWG says its lawyers are reviewing the decision.
Meanwhile, Mauro said there would be a lot of planning processes, assessments and consultation needed. But the ruling does help clarify that the authority to grant easements rests with his ministry.
"It clarifies things but it's still early stages," he said.
Northern development and mines minister Michael Gravelle said it's ultimately up to Cliffs whether the company wants to go down that road.
"Cliffs themselves will need to decide as to what course of action they're going to take," he said.