Premier Ford said that the road connecting the Ring of Fire would “change lives” in an area with significant mineral claims.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford emerged last Monday (March 2) to announce an agreement to advance a proposed road in Northern Ontario that would benefit First Nations, communities and resource companies near and operating in the Ring of Fire.
The announcement — made at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) conference in downtown Toronto — was an abundance of pomp and circumstance, with Ford calling it “an historic day.”
“My friends,” he said to a room full of reporters that later asked questions mostly unrelated to the project, “this is not just a road — it’s a path to greater hope and opportunity.”
As detailed in the release, the all-season road would connect First Nations communities to Ontario’s provincial road network, and, according to the government, “improve access to health and social services and put in place improved infrastructure, such as high-speed Internet and reliable cellular service, for the First Nations and other communities nearby.”
The agreement was signed between the Ontario government and two First Nations that would benefit from the road: Marten Falls and Webequie.
Like the release, Ford’s announcement was short on specific details, numbers and timelines, with the premier addressing the room in a style closer to a campaign stump speech than a technical announcement, taking swings at Ontario’s previous governments and Ottawa in general.
Ford batted away a question on the dollar value of the proposed road and the mineral potential of the Ring of Fire that would potentially be unlocked, instead leaning in to the common theme of community benefit and partnership with local First Nations. He later scolded the room of reporters for asking non-road-related questions.
“We’re talking about a road access that’s going to change (First Nations’) lives,” he said.
Canadian junior miner Noront Resources (TSXV:NOT), which owns 85 percent of claims within the Ring of Fire, was chuffed at the news, with company CEO Alan Coutts telling the Investing News Network (INN) in an interview on the floor of PDAC that he is very pleased the government “has decided that the way to progress this infrastructure is to work hand-in-hand with the First Nations and to empower them to lead the infrastructure projects.”
The First Nations associated with the access road are shareholders in Noront.
Coutts described Noront as a “very interested” observer of the agreement, saying that his company would use the proposed road if it were to become reality.
According to the company, Eagle’s Nest has the potential to produce 150,000 to 250,000 metric tons of nickel concentrate per year, with an 11 year mine life.
The company has another half dozen or so projects in the area ranging from chromite to copper that would benefit from being connected to the provincial road network.
Given that Noront has been developing its case for the Ring of Fire for many years, INN asked Coutts about the timing of the announcement for the road and how long it has taken for any progress on road access to the area.
“From a developer’s point of view, you’re always impatient — that’s the nature of the business … but doing resource development is tricky in Canada, and if you do it the wrong way, you’re not going to get anywhere,” he said.
“It has taken a long time, but I think we’ve landed on the right solution to get this work done, and eventually get the prospects and the mineral deposits developed.”
Coutts and Noront were not able to shed any further light on numbers for a timeline for any potential road development in the area, saying that consultation means it is difficult to forecast. However, he added, “(Noront is) estimating that in five years’ time, we’ll see permitted roads in the region.”
The Ring of Fire has been assessed by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce as having the potential to generate up to C$9.4 billion in gross domestic product in its first 10 years of development.
By market close on Monday, Noront was trading up by 6.9 percent on the TSXV, reaching C$0.155.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.