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article imageRing of Fire mining:environmental and economic issues for Ontario

By KJ Mullins     Jan 6, 2011 in Environment
In Canada's Far North is an area called the The Ring of Fire where mining companies are eager to develop open-pit mining. That may seem like good economic news there are issues not only for the the environment but for the future of Ontario.
The habitat and species that the The Ring of Fire is home to it are at risk for losing their pristine environment.
The minerals that will be mined are being slated to go to China for refinement.
Currently there are almost 40 mining and exploration companies active in the area. A major United States mining company, Cliffs National Resources, Inc. is in the process of developing an open-pit mine. That mine includes roads, rail corridors and buildings. The $1.5 billion operation will become the largest in the world.
Already one lake, McFauld's Lake has been contaminated with raw sewage, grey water, fuel and chemicals from mining companies. Ontario Nature has asked that the Far North Act is passed to protect the boreal region. The act would call for environmental assessments to be conducted, First Nations communities to have a say inland use decisions, sustainable development be part of transportation corridors and that mining activities be considered as part of regional and community based land-planning.
Enter in the fact that much of the raw minerals being mined in this area are being sent to China for refinement that could be done in country.
"Premier Dalton McGuinty's government has called the Ring of Fire the most promising mining opportunity in Canada in a century and yet we understand the plan is to send the raw materials to China to be refined," says William Brehl, president of the union representing maintenance workers on several short line railways in Northern Ontario in a press release.
"As mining operations begin in the next couple years, the same care taken to protect the environment should be taken to protect and promote the economy of Northern Ontario and the thousands of workers who lost their jobs a year ago in Timmins when the former Falconbridge refinery was closed down," he adds.
The area is thought to have the largest deposits of chromite in the world. Chromite is the key ingredient in manufacturing stainless steel. Other minerals speculated in the area are nickel, copper, platinum, gold, zinc and magnesium.
The current plan for the deposits being mined is to haul out 4 to 10 million tons of ore a year south to Nakina, Ontario. From there the ore would be sent to Prince Rupert, British Columbia and onto China via ship.
Brehl is proposing that the ore go east instead of west to Timmins on the Algoma Central Railway.
"The infrastructure is there. The trained workforce is there. The housing is there. The plant is there. All that is needed is the will of politicians to insist that business leaders do this instead of sending it all off to China."
"Ontario is saddled with a $19-billion deficit so maximizing the Ring of Fire benefits should be a no-brainer. And only in November, Ottawa blocked the hostile foreign takeover of Saskatchewan's Potash Corp. so it has some history in getting involved when Canada's natural resources are concerned," Mr. Brehl adds.
More about Ring fire, Mining, Boreal forest, Far north, Canada
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