One of the hurdles to the economic development of the chromite deposits in northern Ontario's Ring of Fire (along with commodity prices and complex negotiations with First Nations) is transportation access to the remote and geographically challenging region. While there has been talk of road and rail access, both of these options are quite expensive. Well, from the pages of the Winnipeg Fee Press comes an editorial that makes the case for an alternate approach -airships. An editorial in the July 3rd edition highlights the work of University of Manitoba professor Barry Prentice who has invested years of his time (and had to deal with some major challenges) in developing an airship prototype.
The Winnipeg Free Press editorial notes that the precedent for northern access using airships is being pursued in northern Quebec where a Quebec Company called Quest Rare Minerals is planning to use a fleet of seven Lockheed airships to transport supplies to its Strange Lake mine near Labrador as well as then carry out the ore. Needless to say, the applicability of the concept to transport in northern Ontario's Ring of Fire is obvious and I have made the case before. Even the House of Commons has apparently thought airships to access the north was an idea worth exploring. The case seems even more compelling now given the increasing fragility of winter ice roads in getting supplies into the north. The First Nations have also noted the possibility of airships as a potential approach as this piece by Chief Elizabeth Atlookan notes. Is this an idea whose time has finally come?