The fascination with the Ring of Fire region in northern Ontario is quite evident in the country’s business pages.
Few mining zones receive more press, even though no mine yet exists in the region 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is anxious to change that, asserting a number of times in the last few years that it was time to “hop on a bulldozer” and start building roads to what have been described as one of the “most promising” critical minerals deposits in Canada.
But that’s a sensitive subject, thanks to the region’s peatlands and resistance from certain Indigenous groups who worry about what development would do to their communities.
For Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, a member of Parliament from British Columbia, the attention the Ring of Fire gets can cast a shadow on other Canadian mining projects that are closer to producing critical minerals such as lithium and copper that are needed to power the electric vehicle boom.
“People get very very focused on one, when there are so many others that do not necessarily have as many challenges as the Ring of Fire does,” Wilkinson said on the sidelines of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto on March 7. He said there are a range of critical minerals projects across Canada where deposits are a lot more “proximate to communities and the infrastructure challenges are not as significant.”
Wilkinson isn’t against mining in the Ring of Fire. He said he thinks the area is interesting and important and wants to see it developed in the “right way,” which includes consultations with Indigenous groups and ensuring that the region’s peatlands, that can capture carbon, aren’t affected.