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McKinnon rocks boat with port plan: prospector wants province to invest in trans-polar trade corridor.

A legendary Timmins prospector, famous for rocking Queen's Park's boat, wants to create a deep-water port on the western half of James Bay to establish marine polar trade routes.

With China only 4,000 kilometres away through the Northwest Passage, Don McKinnon says Northern Ontario has a wealth of precious and base metals that could be shipped more directly to Asian and European markets.

Known as the co-founder of the Hemlo gold deposit, McKinnon made a presentation on the concept to northeastern Ontario mayors in Cochrane, June 29. Mayors from the host community as well as Timmins, Kapuskasing and Opasatika, attended.

He says Northern Ontario is "loaded with everything China needs," including gold, industrial minerals and 100 million tonnes of what he describes as the "top limestone in the world" on one of his properties.

The idea of a James Bay seaport has been discussed many times over the past 40 years. McKinnon says during the 1970s he took part in a federal government-sponsored study examining potential cargoes that could be mined in Northern Ontario and western Quebec for export through a James Bay port.

McKinnon says Northern Ontario contains a vast storehouse of valuable natural resources including gypsum, lignite (brown coal) and oil.

Through his business interests, McKinnon has developed links to the Far East.

He is an adviser with Inter-Citic Minerals Inc., a Toronto-based junior gold exploration and development company focusing on projects in China.

The company has worked in close partnership with Minmetals International Nonferrous Metals Trading Company, a Chinese state-owned company that tried to acquire all of Noranda's mining shares in 2004.

He is also a director and controlling shareholder with Baltic Resources, which has a large undeveloped phosphate and niobium deposit at Martison Lake, north of Hearst.

McKinnon also holds claims for a number of phosphate, gold, niobium and coal deposits in Ontario's remote (North) and Canada's Arctic islands.

McKinnon is well-known for submitting public discussion papers on how Northerners can take back their natural resources, and advocates creating a separate province in Northern Ontario.

Last fall, he was a vocal critic of the Ontario government's study of electronic mining claim staking, fearing it would be the demise of the province's prospecting and development industry.

Though he could not provide any rough cost estimates on how competitive shipping cargo via James Bay compares to shipping through more established Great Lakes ports in Northern Ontario, McKinnon says the shorter distance and a more direct route to Asia and Europe just makes better economic sense.

"We're going ahead, doing all kinds of research."

While working on his plans for a seaport, McKinnon says, the response from across the North has been overwhelming.

"The phone never stops (ringing)."

McKinnon says extreme Arctic weather conditions should not be a factor since the Northwest Passage remained open for 10 months last year.

But the Ontario Northland Railway would have to be extended 50 kilometres from Moosonee to a deep water greenfield location near Fort Albany that he says has the highest potential for a facility.

McKinnon admits he hasn't approached the provincial or federal government to discuss the idea, preferring instead to raise grassroots support in communities across the North.

"Everyone thinks it's the greatest idea and a feasible one."

At least one Northern mayor supports the concept.

"I'm very enthusiastic about it," says Kapuskasing Mayor J.C. Caron who says he believes a seaport will create jobs in Moosonee with economic spinoffs felt throughout northeastern Ontario.

Caron says Moosonee residents frequently visit Kapuskasing on shopping excursions and, with talk of a multi-modal container transfer facility in Sault Ste. Marie, a James Bay seaport would help create a more fully developed and integrated Northern Ontario transportation network.

He adds if the federal government can subsidize a deep water port in Churchill, Manitoba, "why can't we have one here?

"Whenever (McKinnon) needs our support, we'll give it to him when it becomes political."

www.town.kapuskasing.on.ca

By IAN ROSS

Northern Ontario Business
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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