Provincial cabinet minister Greg Rickford offered a stay-tuned response to the government's plans to advance the construction of an access corridor to the Ring of Fire and sharing revenue from resource projects with First Nations.
The minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Indigenous Affairs was in Sudbury to reaffirm the Ford government's commitment to opening up the mineral deposits in the remote James Bay region.
In his Jan. 23 remarks at the Procurement, Employment, Partnerships Conference in Sudbury, Rickford referred to the James Bay mineral belt as a "region of prosperity" that's been "complicated and overburdened with bureaucracy."
As a former board member of Noront Resources, Rickford said with $20 million already invested in the region, the Ring of Fire has been an all-talk, no-action exercise with no shovels in the ground after a decade of discussion.
Prior to the start of last year's provincial election, funding was released for a road study and environmental assessment of the first leg of a north-south access corridor up as far as Marten Falls First Nation, about 100 kilometres short of the mineral deposits.
When asked when funding could be expected to be released for the environmental assessment of the second phase, Rickford said the government will deliver on this project with mining-related infrastructure announcements in the near future.
Rickford talked about forming a "coalition" of willing partners among First Nation communities and municipalities that support the construction of an access road as a "practical and pragmatic exercise" that will create jobs, generate revenue, incentivize business, and connect isolated Northern reserves.
In an interview, Rickford defined that coalition as those communities that want to lead the environmental assessment processes and view the access road as a "corridor of prosperity" that will allow new infrastructure and business opportunities into the region if the mines go into development.
He praised Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations, which have shown "extraordinary leadership" in leading the environmental assessment for the proposed north-south road.
"I haven't heard from an Indigenous leader that I've spoken to from the local communities most proximal (to the Ring of Fire), or businesses and municipalities down here, who've displayed a certain level of frustration with the ways are done.
"I think the people of Ontario, the people of Northern Ontario, have a right...