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Greenstone pushing for telecommunication investment around Ring of Fire

By Jeff Labine,

Greenstone wants improved telecommunications across the region, especially in and around the Ring of Fire.

Greenstone mayor Renald Beaulieu and councillors from that municipality held a special meeting at the Victoria Inn Tuesday. The meeting featured representatives from several Ontario ministries including the Ministry of Natural Resources and Northern Development and Mines.

One of the meeting’s talking points included a proposed $3.9 million investment to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the region. The upgrades would include the installation of additional fibre and networking equipment in order to improve Internet access in the area.

The upgrades would also provide the capacity necessary at Nakina to support a broadband expansion to the Ring of Fire and would also allow remote First Nations to have greater Internet access.

But online access is one of four priorities the municipality is pushing for. Accessibility, power and people round out the other three.

Beaulieu said they are looking for partners to fund these projects including the province.

“As a municipality I feel we’re moving in the right direction to open the ears and the eyes of our government both provincially and federally,” he said referring to the number of projects the township wants to accomplish.

“What we need is some announcements. We need announcements at the provincial level. How can you have huge projects without having access?”

The Ring of Fire project cannot begin until both the federal and provincial governments have completed environmental assessments.

First Nation communities launched legal action in November 2011 to look into the environmental assessment in the Ring of Fire, which may cause delays.

Cliffs Natural Resources had planned to start development in the Ring of Fire by 2016.

Beaulieu said they support the communities that launched the judicial review of the EA process but added that they still need to be ready to begin construction at a moment’s notice.

“When they say 2016 that could mean within a year or so we have to start construction,” he said.

“Are we ready? That’s what I’m saying. Let’s step up to the plate and put some money on the table to get these companies wanting to do the major projects.”