McGuinty government urged to kill plans to ship 'Ring of Fire' refinery work to China
U.S. multinational Cliffs Natural Resources says it will seek exemption to Ontario Mining Act to ship raw chromite overseas, but Teamsters wants the government to tell foreigners that if you 'mine it here, then refine it here or keep it in the ground'OTTAWA, Nov. 25, 2011 /CNW/ - Queen's Park will squander huge potential benefits of the so-called "Ring of Fire" mining discovery in the James Bay lowlands if it allows the lion's share of raw materials to be siphoned off and sent to China for refining, says the head of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees.
"A senior executive of Cliffs Natural Resources told CBC news this week that it plans to ship much of the raw chromite to Asia for refining and will seek an exemption to the Ontario Mining Act because the law prevents materials mined in Ontario being refined outside Canada," says William Brehl, president of the union representing maintenance workers on several short line railways in Northern Ontario that may carry Ring of Fire minerals.
"Premier Dalton McGuinty's government has called the Ring of Fire the most promising mining opportunity in Canada in a century. We urge his minority government to stand tall, protect Ontario jobs and help Northern Ontario's economy by denying the exemption. If you mine it here, then refine it here or go away and leave it in the ground. We have been urging this for the past year since we first heard about the China plan," Brehl says.
The Ring of Fire, about twice as large as Prince Edward Island, is said to hold one of the world's largest and richest deposits of chromite, the key ingredient in making stainless steel. It is also said to possess nickel, copper, platinum, gold, zinc and magnesium.
Instead of extracting the minerals from beneath the Canadian Shield and shipping them to China - a country not known for its environmental and labor protection laws - the chromite and other materials should be refined in Ontario, creating Ontario jobs and bolstering business for the ONR (Ontario Northland Railway) which is subsidized with Ontario tax dollars, Mr. Brehl says.
"This is a simple win for Ontario. There is infrastructure in Timmins to refine where a former Falconbridge refinery closed recently, there are trained workers there, there is a potential for more jobs in Ontario's North and fewer tax dollars required to subsidize the ONR because shipping the minerals will add needed money to ONR's coffers. There is nothing stopping Premier McGuinty from saying 'no' to the exemption except big powerful multinational corporations who will threaten to take their ball and bat and go home. If the Occupy Movement has taught us anything, it is that sometimes we have to do what is best for people, not what is best for Wall Street financiers and corporations," Mr. Brehl adds.
Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees Division (TCRC-MWED), a division of Teamsters Canada, represents more than 4,000 maintenance of way workers at more than 20 short line railroads across Canada, including the ONR, and CP Rail. Its members are involved in inspecting, monitoring and repairing the tracks, bridges and structures on the network. TCRC-MWED's mission is to make sure that the railw