An information session on area mining projects held here last Wednesday was met with excitement from local business owners and municipal leaders.
Rainy River Resources Ltd. and Bending Lake Iron Group Ltd. were on hand to discuss exploration for their gold and pig iron operations, respectively.
Coventry Resources also attended regarding its gold project at Cameron Lake, but did not make a formal presentation.
“With everything happening in the paper industry and with the parity of the Canadian dollar . . . we have to look for alternative sources of economic development,” stressed Fort Frances Mayor Roy Avis.
“And this seems to be a very good fit for us.”
For a region that has seen explorative mining for decades, last Wednesday’s presentations were encouraging.
Rainy River Resources said exploration so far has revealed around six million ounces of gold in its project area in Richardson Township, north of Barwick.
Meanwhile, the pig iron project underway by Bending Lake Iron Group could see at least 245 million tonnes of iron ore mined, field geologist Allen Raoul told the large crowd on hand for the open house, which was hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Fort Frances economic development office.
From that iron ore, 61 million tonnes of pig iron (material necessary to make steel) would be created.
Raoul added 300-400 jobs could be created by the mine, and that there is the potential to confirm another 200 million tonnes of iron ore by the end of this year.
Both projects are expected to be underway by 2015.
“I don’t think mining’s ever a sure thing,” conceded local business consultant Tannis Drysdale. “But it’s for sure that there’s a lot of activity right now in terms of drilling and exploration, and that’s pure economic development.
“That’s filling up hotels,” she noted. “That’s selling snowmachines, vehicles, trucks, all sorts of equipment.
“So to not be prepared for that, and to not be liaising and communicating on an ongoing basis, would be foolish,” Drysdale reasoned.
Tony Marinaro, chief business development officer for Naicatchewenin Development Corp., was optimistic about the opportunities mining could provide.
“For the aboriginal people and the non-aboriginal, it’s a great time to work together to reap the benefits that are finally showing themselves, specifically in the mining sector,” he remarked.
“The whole district needs to
diversify its employment opportunities,” he agreed.
“I mean, we can’t depend on just the one industry in town. We’ve seen where that’s going.
“I hope the mill runs for another thousand years,” Marinaro added. “But the reality of the economics is what it is and not everybody can work in one industry.”
Marinaro also said he was comfortable with legislation surrounding the environmental impact of mining.
“All the regulations that are put out there, I think they meet and exceed some of the expectations that people have in regards to the environmental issues,” he noted.
“Those are very near and dear to the hearts of, especially, the aboriginal communities.
“As keepers of the land, we want to ensure that it’s part and parcel,” Marinaro added. “And Rainy River [Resources] has shown it’s important to them also.”
If the mines do become operational as planned, there could be a cross-industry pay-off.
“They’ve talked about doing mining and they’ve been drilling, but nothing’s ever come of it so far,” said Dave Kaemingh, a bulk fuel supplier who has fuelled mining exploration in the past.
“This is probably as good as it’s been, or as close as they’ve been to getting there.
“Some areas will affect some communities better than others, but it’s all good for the whole district,” Kaemingh stressed.
“I mean ultimately, everybody benefits.”
Outside the more obvious benefits such as fuel, hospitality, and housing, at least one local business owner is curious to see how he’ll feel the effects of the mining industry.
“I wanted to see what it’s all about really, what mining’s all about,” said Michael Tullio, owner of the Nirvana Salon on Scott Street.
“I haven’t had too much exposure to it, being from southern Ontario myself,” he noted.
“I think anybody who’s in business would have their head stuck in the sand if they didn’t think it’d affect them in some shape or form,” Tullio added.
“All they need to do is ask themselves the question: if the mill went down, what would happen to them?
“Any of those bigger industries [are] going to affect all of us.”