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Two mining exploration camps are pictured in the proposed Ring of Fire development area, approximately 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay in this undated handout photo.

Reuters

The Ontario government has pledged $1-billion to build a road link to the remote resource-rich Ring of Fire region in Northern Ontario, but it says the money is contingent on receiving a matching pledge from the federal government.

The funding was included in Thursday's provincial budget and is aimed at encouraging more companies to make commitments to move ahead with facilities and mines in the region, which is located 535 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay and has no year-round road access.

U.S. mining company Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. suspended operations at the Ring of Fire late last year, citing uncertainty about the road-link plans and delays in getting approvals from First Nations in the region.

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Ontario estimates the value of the known nickel and chromite deposits in the region at more than $60-billion.

The provincial government wants Ottawa to contribute to funding the expensive road-building project, arguing that it contributed $3.1-billion to help develop Newfoundland and Nova Scotia's offshore oil and gas drilling projects, and provides support worth $1.4-billion annually to Alberta and Saskatchewan's oil and gas sector.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa said Thursday that the federal government has been short-changing the province on infrastructure spending in many areas.

"We're calling on the federal government to treat Ontarians the same way it treats all other provinces. … Stop delaying important infrastructure funding, and match our $1-billion commitment to the Ring of Fire," he told reporters.

The government also said it will modernize the province's Mining Act to create an online system to stake mining claims, replacing the current paper-based system.

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