The government of Ontario has already approved a North-South transportation corridor from Nakina, ON into the Ring of Fire but communities like Sioux Lookout and Pickle Lake are pushing to reverse that decision and they’re trying to get Red Lake on board.
“Originally they were going North-South only,” said Red Lake Municipal Economic Development Officer Bill Greenway. “There is something like 32 river crossings in the North-South proposal. If they go East-West there is something like two.”
But concerns about the environment are not the only ones. The potential economic benefits of an East-West transportation corridor are getting some regional municipal representatives fired up too.
“The benefits of the Ring of Fire should not be limited to a few communities,” stated Sioux Lookout Mayor Dennis Leney. “We need to be sure that the province understands that this major development needs to benefit as many communities in the Northwest as possible.”
Red Lake Mayor Phil Vinet says Red Lake likely wouldn’t benefit from the proposed East-West transportation corridor route which wouldn’t extend as far West as Red Lake.
“Unless that included a direct route from Pickle to Red it doesn’t make any sense for us to be part of it right now,” said Mayor Phil Vinet. “I don’t like to throw our neighbouring communities under the bus but for us to spend money we have to see some potential benefit.”
He went on to say that even though Noront Resources – one of the big players in the Ring of Fire mining development – has shown interest in the East-West transportation corridor, Cliffs Natural Resources – the other big player – has not.
“It might be noble and courageous to try and change that from North-South to East-West…but I seriously doubt if there would be any public money for infrastructure for both routes,” added Mayor Vinet.
Municipal council voted on Nov. 19 against a request from the Municipality of Sioux Lookout toward a contribution of three thousand dollars which would help pay for a consultant to investigate the environmental, socio-economic and future benefits of the East-West transportation corridor. It has been estimated that the bill for the consulting process would be around 15 thousand dollars total. The municipalities of Sioux Lookout and Pickle Lake have also sought the financial support of Ear Falls, Machin, Dryden, Ignace and Noront Resources.
“If it brought us to the hydro table with some degree of hope then maybe, but not now,” concluded Mayor Vinet.