Another day and another study has been done on how to best move the resources from the mining opportunities in Northern Ontario. KWG Resources Inc. has now determined that it is around 500 million dollars cheaper to build a rail line to the north as compared to a all season road. Their study has also determined that the movement of materials will be significantly cheaper per tonne then moving it by road. Both systems would take around 3 years to create and would still have to go through a environmental (although watered down now) check system. There are both positives and negatives to these different approaches and the decision on which one to take will be important for the future of our province and First Nations people’s.
The all season roadway would provide much needed access to the sites for both passengers and freight. It would allow for quick movement between pickle lake and the major centers in the Ring Of Fire. It also provides the neighboring First Nations communities like Fort Hope, Neskantaga and Nibinamik with access other then air. A land based travel system would significantly reduce the price of daily living in these communities and allow for heavier items to be transported to the communities for more then 2 months a year. The costs of this project is expected to be around 1.5 billion but will likely see increases due to the poor land quality in the area. There are also major questions that still need to be answered about this project and its benefits to those around it.
Will it be maintained when the projects are over? There are some thoughts that the Ring of Fire could produce for the next 50-100 years (in one form or another) but when the mining is done will it be maintained. By that time this road will be a lifeline for many aboriginal communities in the area. Returning to how things operate today will be completely unacceptable and First Nations leaders will need to push for an agreement on maintaining it, if this is the final decision.
Are the environmental impacts so detrimental that rail is better? Moving large quantities of items by truck is expensive and its also dirty. There will be a significantly higher amount of emissions and other detrimental affects on the environment in the area if the road is built. There will likely also be construction along the roadway continuing to change the environmental landscape. While this could provide economic opportunity to communities and business people along the roadway; determining how much expansion is appropriate will be important.
Is this another Fort McMurrary problem. When the road to Fort McMurrary was built they didn’t take into account the scope of traffic on the roadway. Thousands of people use this road daily to head to work or head home. There is also massive piece of equipment along this road which can cause a fairly dangerous ride. The speed, traffic density and an overloaded road system costs the lives of hundreds of people on an annual basis. The government’s hand has been forced an the road is being 4 laned at the cost of an additional 220 million dollars. If we are going to build this road it will need to be proper to the traffic volumes.
On to rail.
Rail provides a unique opportunity for the mining companies to lower their costs and provide a better business plan to bankers for money. Its a much more environmentally friendly and economical way to move people from site to site but also has it downfalls. A rail line wouldn’t provide the First Nations communities with the same economic opportunity as truck stops (etc) along the road line would. The reduced amount of emissions and environmental impact would play into their ballpark of keeping mother earth safe. One one hand there is a negative but on the other a positive that they hold close to their hearts. In a world where people are much more environmentally conscious, there will likely be a push for the rail line. Again there are questions to be asked about this to make it work for everyone. When the Ore hops on a rail car are we going to see it again or will it flow to Vancouver to ship to China. We need to push to make sure that more then just the extraction is done here. We can’t afford to keep sending away all our resources to supply jobs to others because they are only there once.
What benefit is there to the First Nations Communities? A road allows for cheaper access to materials and items like food which are traditionally flown into these communities. Is there an opportunity to make a stations where a train could drop off materials or people. Obviously there is a environmental benefit by the reduction in emission but is the economic opportunities lost by not having a road line too much?
How are we going to move people? Ontario is in the process of closing down the ONTC which means there will be even less opportunity for people to travel by rail. Would the government of the day really be willing to start up another company like which they just closed to serve this route. Would VIA rail be willing to partner with these companies to serve this area during the mining boom. What happens when the passengers stop and it is just the odd person going for medical treatment. Are we back to square one again?
There are opportunities but we need to have plans for the medium and long term. We need to work with the First Nations leaders to pick the best option for not only their people but the people to come. This could benefit all of Ontario significantly but we need it to benefit Northwestern Ontario the most. We only get one shot with these resources and we are going to need to make the most of it. We need to leave the land a better place then it was for our children and have the plans in place now. We need to work together on this project as equals and as stakeholders with a lot to gain and lose from this transaction.
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