What's Happening At The Place Called "Ring Of Fire"
For those who have followed the mining plays for any length of time, they can tell you there is always a play going on somewhere. These plays are kind of gold rushes that just seem to happen. Back in the 1990's there was the big diamond play in the lac de gras region of the NWT. That was the big Chuck Fipke Dia Met minerals diamond find. Shortly after that there was the Voisy's Bay thing happening where everyone ran over there to get in on a play. Then diamonds in Saskatchewan. Shore Gold with their Fort la corne project. Then there was the graphite thing going on where everyone was getting into graphite and then for what seemed to be a very long while was the this play called "Ring of Fire" somewhere in Northen Ontario. Everyday it was in the mining news, ring of fire this, ring of fire that. Headlines like "Noront drills hot hole" and "high grade blah blah" found. Then suddenly it's quite. Today you hardly hear a peep out of anything called ring of fire yet back in the fall of 2011, the Ring of Fire was considered one of the largest potential mineral reserves in Ontario" with "more than 35 junior and intermediate mining and exploration companies covering an area of approximately 1.5 million hectares.
So what is going with the so called ring of fire anyways? Well I thought it would be intresting to take a look and see what if anything was happening. After all buckets of money have been spent on exploration work so there must be something. I mean this play was going to be a huge deal. Ontario's Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Michael Gravelle called the region "home to one of the most promising mineral development opportunities in Ontario in more than a century." Tony Clement, Canada's Treasury Board President and the FedNor minister responsible for the Ring of Fire, claimed it will be the economic equivalent of the Athabasca oil sands, with a potential of generating $120 billion. Clement says the Ring of Fire represents a "once-in-a-life opportunity to create jobs and generate growth and long-term prosperity for northern Ontario and the nation."
Noront Resources NOT was the first junior to be in the area and it was the president of this company that called the area ring of fire. The first project is a 100%-owned, high-grade, nickel, copper and platinum group element (PGE) deposit called Eagle's Nest. It is the largest high-grade nickel discovery in Canada since Voisey's Bay and the most advanced project in the Ring of Fire. The next projects in our pipeline are the Blackbird and Black Thor chromite deposits.
Cliffs Natural Resources was a company that had a lot acreage in this area also but was bought out by Noront just last year. To date, Noront has invested over $200 million in exploration, development, acquisition and community engagement-an area of recognized leadership. The company's exploration program includes 205,516 meters of drilling in 624 holes. Noront expects to be in commercial production at Eagle's Nest by 2020.
So we have this huge project that has an estimated $60 BILLION worth of chromite sitting out in the middle of nowhere. But like all big projects it seems that it has come to a grinding halt. Just last month in the Thunder Bay paper was an interesting write up about the Ring of Firewhere it stated that:
People striving to develop resources tell us they're under siege in the North - the Endangered Species Act, the Far North Act, and a plethora of rules and regulations, never ending consultation and a dragging of feet by government.
Land use planning environmental assessments have all been delayed and still remain outstanding. According to the government, the delays are due to the time it has taken to consult with Aboriginal communities.
Opposition Leader Patrick Brown charged during Question Period last November, "The time for talk is over. It's time for action in the north. Northerners and investors are tired of this government's wait-and-see attitude toward the development of the Ring of Fire.
As noted in yesterday's National Post, this government's lack of action on its billion-dollar infrastructure promise to the Ring of Fire leaves investors worried and frustrated. Platitudes and photo ops don't get shovels in the ground; they don't get people working. Only a firm timeline for construction of a transportation corridor in the Ring of Fire will give investors the confidence they need."
A 2014 Fraser Institute report noted that one reason investors lose interest in Ontario's mining potential is the lack of clarity and understanding around the Aboriginal consultation process. In comparison to the rest of Canada, Ontario takes less of a leadership role and has delegated more consultation to the private sector.
So there you have it. If you were like me wondering whatever happened to that "Ring of Fire" project, now you know. If you have shares in any of the players in the play you maybe in for a long hold period.