Jonathan Wilkinson douses some of hype around Ontario’s Ring of Fire


Adds to uncertainty over whether the rich source of mineral deposits will ever be meaningfully developed

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Natural Resources minister Jonathan Wilkinson described the Ring of Fire region in northern Ontario as a “particularly challenging space” for future mining projects, adding to the uncertainty over whether a rich source of mineral deposits will ever be developed in a meaningful way.

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At the launch of Canada’s first critical minerals strategy in Vancouver on Dec. 9, Wilkinson was asked if the government would be moving forward with mining in the Ring of Fire, since the new federal plan states that there is a need to protect peatlands or wetland ecosystems that act as carbon sinks.

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“There is a lot of that area that is peat,” Wilkinson said. “And there are also several Indigenous nations that have raised concerns and certainly questions about development in that space, both of those issues have to be addressed in any agreement.”

Wilkinson added that there may be ways of both protecting the peat areas and finding spaces where one could mine in an “environmentally sensitive” manner, but his willingness to acknowledge the barriers to development in that part of northern Ontario could add to the doubts that have long accompanied the hype around the Ring of Fire’s potential.

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Located about 500 kilometres from Thunder Bay, the Ring of Fire has “multi-generational potential” to produce minerals such as nickel and copper that are currently in high demand as countries look to accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels, according to the Ontario government.

Premier Doug Ford’s government is currently working on building an all-season pathway to connect the Ring of Fire with manufacturers in the southern part of the province. The project, which is being advanced with the help of two Indigenous groups, has also faced opposition from other First Nations.

Wilkinson observed that there were proposals for many other mines in Ontario and other parts of Canada that are “far closer to realization” than the Ring of Fire.

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The minister added that people “often get stuck” on the Ring of Fire because of its massive potential. However, from environmental assessments to the proposal of a mining project, there’s still a long way to go before mining can actually begin in the region.

“I certainly wouldn’t rule it off the table,” said Wilkinson. “It’s very interesting from a mineral deposit perspective, but it has to be done through considering some of these legitimate issues including the peat.”

Wyloo Metals Pty. Ltd., an Australian company that owns the Eagle’s Nest project in the Ring of Fire last month said that the company was in talks with the U.S. Department of Defense regarding potential funding for the project.

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