Road to the Ring of Fire

by libbygeorge123 on October 7, 2016 - 12:59pm

            The Ring of Fire is an enormous mineral deposit 500km from Thunder Bay, Ontario. It is known as “the next oil sands” of Canada, mostly for its abundance in the mineral chromite which the main ingredient in stainless steel. Since its discovery in 2010, the provincial government and select mining companies have been collaborating to make it a reality. The problem is that mining has still not begun mining.

            This article touches on the relationship between the provincial and federal government on developing the Ring of Fire. The area will be receiving a joint donation of $785,000 from the federal and provincial government to investigate the option of an all-weather road starting at Webequie First Nation and ending at Pickle Lake, as seen in “Figure 1” below. The road will not only justify the development of the Ring of Fire, but it will also allow four isolated First Nation communities to be connected to the south, and receive benefits such as resources year round and be connected to the energy grid. Federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford views it as an “opportunity to hook First Nations communities up, help anchor them to other towns in the region”.  

This article fails to address the environmental problems that would be caused from mining the Ring of Fire. The view of this article is that a road will solve all of the problems for these four First Nations groups, when in reality it will destroy their ancestral livelihood. Mining can cause a number of environmental impacts; for example runoff from spoil heaps or mineral stockpiles can enter freshwater sources and cause de-oxygenation of the water which is devastating for aquatic life, and in turn the First Nations who harvest that life (Wolkersdorfer &Younger, 2004).

            Mining chromite is an example of harvesting a stock resource. There is only a finite amount of it which can be harvested from the Ring of Fire. Yes, the mining will bring jobs and roads to the First Nations, but it will be destroying renewable flow resources such as aquatic life, forest habitat for animals, timber. A price cannot be put on these resources; harvesting these flow resources in a sustainable manner is the way of life of the First Nations. Prospectors state that there is enough metal to be harvested from Ring of Fire for more than 100 years to come (Axworthy, 2014). By this point a number of flow resources in the area will be destroyed, the damage will be irreversible, and the First Nations communities will be left with none of their livelihood.

Axworthy, N. (2014). Ring of fire puts spotlight on northern Ontario’s mining industry. Engineering Dimensions, 35(5), 39-43. Retrieved from: http://www.peo.on.ca/index.php/ci_id/28123/la_id/1.htm

Porter, J. (2015, March 1). Ring of fire proposal to get $785,000 government study. CBC News. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/ring-of-fire-road-proposal-to-...

Wolkersdorfer, C., Younger, P.L. (2004). Mining impacts on the freshwater environment: technical and managerial guidelines for catchment scale management. Mine Water and the Environment, 23, S2-S80. Retrieved from:  http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/43779300/ERMITE_guideline...