In the News
What’s at stake in Ontario’s Ring of Fire

Originally published in Canadian Geographic

24 August 2017

The James Bay Lowlands in northern Ontario contain one of the largest potential mineral reserves in Canada. Now, the region’s economy and environment stand on the brink of massive transformation.

Sandhill cranes stand preening in the sedge-covered fens. Their bugling calls merge with the clamour of vast goose colonies that carpet the peatlands with motion. More remote by some measures than many parts of the Arctic, the James Bay Lowlands, at the southern tip of Hudson Bay, are at their most phenomenal in spring when they are overwhelmed with bird life. Fens and untreed muskeg full of sphagnum moss alternate to form a mottled pattern of string bog.

This wetland landscape houses the area now known as the Ring of Fire, 400 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay and 300 kilometres from the nearest paved road. Here, mineral exploration has uncovered some of the largest discoveries in Canadian history. With the potential to yield $60 billion worth of nickel, chromite and other minerals, the deposits are substantial enough to support mining operations for a hundred years. The Ontario government has pledged $1 billion toward infrastructure — mainly in the form of a road to the area — to encourage the mining industry.

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