With an election in sight, Doug Ford is once again ready to jump on the Ring of Fire “bulldozer”

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Ontario Premier Coming to Sault to Charge Algoma Steel and Mining Industry with Critical Minerals

Premier Doug Ford has not backed down from his government’s commitment to invest in the development of a north-south highway network in the Ring of Fire.

The premier and some provincial ministers were in Sault Ste. Marie on April 8, surrounded by steel coils on the floor of Algoma Steel’s Direct Strip Complex to unveil the province’s expanded Northern Energy Advantage Program (NEAP), an electricity rebate program for large industrial users in the North.

Ford’s visit to the Sault came the day after Ottawa committed billions of dollars to a critical minerals and clean industry strategy. The federal line item contained a host of incentives and regulatory assistance for the mining industry to discover and prove the next generation of mines and mineral deposits needed to fuel the “green energy” revolution and the high-tech economy.

A potential future source of these minerals could be the untapped Ring of Fire resources in the James Bay region.

Coincidentally, on the same day as the budget was released, Australia’s Wyloo Metals completed its takeover of nickel and minerals assets from Noront Resources in the Far North mineral belt, some 500 kilometers to the northeast from Thunder Bay.

The gathered media asked Ford if he had a conversation with the Australian mining company and if Sault Ste. Marie is still the preferred landing point for a ferrochrome processing plant, chosen by Noront in 2019.

Ford responded that he had not had direct discussions with the Perth-based company, but opted to double down on his government’s pledge to commit $1 billion in provincial funding to build a north-west access road. south to reach the “hundreds of billions” of valuable and untapped mineral resources.

These proposed routes are subject to a provincial environmental assessment.

According to a 2019 Infrastructure Canada document, the cost of building 450 kilometers of new roads and upgrading 97 kilometers of existing forest roads, in four sections, would be in the range of 1.1 to 1 $.6 billion. The province is still expecting a “suggested” federal contribution from Ottawa of between $577 million and $779 million.

The road network will also connect the remote First Nation communities of Marten Falls and Webequie to the provincial road network for the first time. The Prime Minister found it “incredible” that remote First Nations communities must continue to airlift diesel fuel and food. He promised that the access road would change the lives of people in these communities.

An enthusiastic Ford then dusted off and revived a campaign quote from his 2018 election campaign that angered environmental groups and some Indigenous communities opposed to mining development in the Far North.

“With the support of First Nations communities, we will both jump on this bulldozer and build this road as safe as I am here.”

Ford and Northern Development Minister Greg Rickford used the event to tout the region’s role in creating a national industrial supply chain the province is championing to connect forestry, mining and manufacturing operations. from the North to the Southern Ontario market.

Critical minerals like nickel, platinum group metals, lithium, cobalt and magnesium, which northern Ontario is rich in, are a big part of this strategy.

Part of this “green” technology movement includes Northern Ontario industrial stalwarts like Algoma Steel, Sault’s largest private sector employer.

Just three years ago, Algoma emerged from creditor protection, refinanced under new ownership and embarked on a mill modernization program that expected a $700 million investment in two electric furnaces.

Construction is now underway, creating 500 jobs in the process and long-term benefits for the city’s service and supply businesses.

This more efficient method of production will reduce Algoma’s greenhouse gas emissions by 70%.

Algoma CEO Mike McQuade said continuing and improving the Northern Energy Advantage program gives companies like Algoma “clarity and certainty” to undertake such projects, makes the steelmaker more competitive and ensures that Algoma will be making steel in Sault for “generations”. to come.”

The new and improved NEAP program will benefit from an increase in funding from $120 million each year to more than $176 million by 2026, allowing more companies to apply and qualify. Algoma is the first participant in the new program.

A $20 million cap on applicants will be removed, Rickford said, to incentivize mining and forestry operations to increase production and not be hit by higher electricity costs when a certain threshold is reached.

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