Ring of Fire negotiators appointed for $120-billion mining project in Northwestern Ontario
Negotiations set to fire up between province, stakeholders and First Nations communities
By: Leah Kellar, Staff Writer
A ring of heated debate is surrounding the largest new mining project in Canada. Prospectors have located extensive deposits of chromite, nickel, copper and other metals estimated to boost economic profits into the hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs.
The Ring of Fire is the name that has been given to the James Bay basin, approximately 400 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, Ontario, wherein a wealth of minerals was found. The Ring of Fire project has been dubbed in recent media reports as “Canada’s next Oil Sands” in the words of the provincial Treasury Board President, Tony Clement.
He has been quoted as saying that the project for its duration could be worth $120-billion from the scope of the mine, and economic activity required for extraction and processing.
The discovery of chromite in vast quantity, an ingredient in stainless steel, in addition to other minerals found have raised the value of its long-term importance to the provincial economy and private stakeholders.
[pullquote]While the mining project could mean a significant boom in economic activity and jobs in the region, it is still in the planning stages. [/pullquote]
Cleveland-based Cliffs National Resources’ plans to begin its $3.3-billion chromite mine operations have been delayed from an initial year of 2016. Other companies that have flooded the region have also been at a standstill.
One of the reasons for the halt in planned operations is owing to nine First Nations groups and concerned environmental groups. The Matawa Chiefs Council representing the nine First Nations reserves located in the Ring of Fire accepted former federal leader, Bob Rae this past spring to be their chief negotiator in talks with the mining companies and the province on future development. Former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci was appointed by the province on July 2nd to act as its negotiator in talks with the chiefs.
The Matawa Chiefs Council are asking for a regional strategy negotiation framework to begin with that will primarily ensure that environmental concerns will be met through environmental assessment processes. This process will look into the environmental impact of the proposed mining activity in their traditional lands, and guarantee a certain number of jobs will go to First Nations workers in the region.
Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 ensures that First Nations communities are consulted in negotiations to secure social, community and economic development supports. In this case, it will guarantee jobs and related economic benefits from mining projects among others on treaty-protected lands for First Nations communities.
Deputy grand chief, Les Louttit of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in the affected Treaty 9 region said in interviews with the Canadian media that First Nations communities in the area are ill equipped to reap the benefits in a region of socio-economic poverty. He mentioned the need to first address a gap in the quality of high school education and relevant post-secondary skills training in preparation for jobs to come from the project.
Leah Kellar is a freelance journalist and photographer living in the GTA. When she is not writing or snapping photos she can often be spotted outdoors as a multi-coloured neon flash pounding the pavement or running out on the trail.
The Globe and Mail – Retired Supreme Court justice to be Ontario’s lead negotiator on Ring of Fire
The Globe and Mail – Video: Why First Nations buy-in is ‘critical’ for Northern mining: Clement
The Globe and Mail – Northern Ontario chromite mining has first nation worried for water safety
Research sources – Northern Ontario Ring of Fire (For clarity on Treaty 9 and constitutional legislation.)
The Huffington Post – Clement: Ontario ‘Ring of Fire’ Will be Canada’s Next Oil Sands