Ring of Fire Updates Weekly News Roundup

January 28 – February 3, 2020 : Weekly News Roundup

This week, a new organization called Friends of the Attawapiskat River released comments in response to the draft “Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines” and draft “Indigenous Engagement Plan” put forward as part of the Impact Assessment process for the Webequie Supply Road Project and Marten Falls Access Road. In an impact assessment process, the “proponent” (the entity that is taking responsibility for the process of seeing the impact assessment through; sometimes this is a corporation, sometimes a municipality; in this case it’s two First Nations) must submit a series of documents that are reviewed by the government. Before they are reviewed by the government, though, mechanisms for feedback from the public are opened up, which the government reviews alongside the submitted documents. Facilitated by the Canadian Environmental Law Association, these comments from community members in Timmins, Fort Albany, Kashechewan, and Attawapiskat were submitted during one of these kinds of feedback periods.

You can see a summary of the key recommendations put forward by these community members on page 14 of the document.

There were many important considerations expressed in these comments. Many commenters felt that they had not been properly informed about the IA process, nor had proper channels been created for people from fly-in communities to participate. There was also a strong critique of the “piecemeal” IA approach currently underway; communities were being asked to comment only on the access roads but had thoughts about the Ring of Fire as a whole that couldn’t be included because the IA scope was too narrow. Particularly impactful were the collection of images in Appendix 3, which are scans of letters from youth and children who participated in the process. Their message was loud and clear:

Greg Rickford spoke in Timmins, Ontario this week about the state of mining in Ontario. He claimed that progress is being made in quickening how long it takes to get a mine up and running in this province. He told the audience that a working group has been formed “of people who reflect the entire mining sector” to work at removing “regulatory burdens that don’t compromise the safety or environment sustainability but are red tape for the sake of it”. You can see a full list of this working group’s membership here. Upon first glance, while there are some representatives from Indigenous business organizations, there is no representation from communities who would be directly impacted by reducing regulation and speeding up the process of mine construction.

Sault Online also reported on the launch of Joan Kuyek’s new book “Unearthing Justice: How to Protect Your Community from the Mining Industry. It was predicted that Kuyek would have some choice words to say about Noront Resources and the Ring of Fire, given that the audience would be full of Saultites terrified by the prospect of Noront’s proposed ferrochrome smelter. See the article below for excerpts from Joan’s talk!

January 28, 2020 (CELA Website):

Friends of the Attawapiskat River comments on Ring of Fire

“The Friends of the Attawapiskat River (the “Friends”), represented by the Canadian Environmental Law Association (“CELA”), welcome this opportunity to provide comments and recommendations to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada’s (the “Agency”) on its draft Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines (“Guidelines”) and draft Indigenous Engagement Plan for the Webequie Supply Road and Marten Falls Community Access Road. Unless otherwise specified, this submission applies to the impact assessments (IAs) for both road projects. In making these submissions to the Agency, the Friends note they are not speaking on behalf of any of the communities or its leadership where its members are based (Neskantaga, Peawanuck, Kashechewan and Fort Albany First Nations), but rather sharing the views, concerns and messages heard during a series of in-community discussions and workshops held during January 2020.” Read more here…

January 28, 2020 (TB News Watch):

Noront CEO sees progress on north-south road

Says first ring of fire mine could be operational in as little as five years.

“Noront CEO Alan Coutts is cautiously optimistic about his company’s claims in the so-called ring of fire, saying its first mine could be operational as early as five years from now. Environmental assessments are currently underway on two road projects that would open up the valuable mineral claims to development. Marten Falls is leading an assessment process for a road that would connect the community to the provincial highway system near Aroland First Nation, about 170 kilometres away. Webequie, meanwhile, leads a process to build a 110-kilometre road that would connect to mineral deposits in the Ring of Fire. Coutts expects those assessments to take about another year to complete. If the proponents of those projects prove able to resolve concerns over building the roads, he says it would take roughly another three years for construction.” Read more here…

January 29, 2020 (Sudbury Star):

“It cannot take us eight years to open up a frigging mine”

Progress being made to quicken mine start-ups, minister says

“Ontario is looking to expedite the process of getting mining operations open for commercial production. That was a key message from Greg Rickford, the province’s minister of energy, mines, northern development and Indigenous affairs, who was in Timmins Monday to deliver a State of Mining address. Rickford spoke of the industry’s need to be “better and faster” at opening mines for market in a “timely manner.”” Read more here…

January 21, 2020 (Sault Online):

Unearthing Justice: How to Protect Your Community from the Mining Industry book launch

“Last night, Joan Kuyek launched her new book called “Unearthing Justice: How to Protect Your Community from the Mining Industry.” About 70 people attended the event. The mining industry, Ring of Fire development, and the proposed Ferrochrome smelter in the Sault were discussed. The Master of Ceremonies was Sean Meades, NORDIK’s Director. Meades introduced Kuyek saying, “Joan Kuyek has over thirty years’ experience in analyzing the social, environmental and economic costs of mining, and working with communities to develop environmental assessments, cost-benefit agreements and stop unethical mining practices. We are very fortunate to have this opportunity to hear from one of Canada’s leading authorities on the economics of mining.” During our interview before the event, Joan expressed extreme dismay at the money spent on the Ring of Fire. She said, “The federal and provincial governments have sunk over $57 million into a pipe-dream that isn’t feasible. The Ring of Fire is not likely to ever happen. However, people are getting rich over it.” As of 2016, the federal government spent $17 million and the Ontario government spent $40 million. “Money that could have gone to homes, healthcare, and other priorities,” declared Joan.” Read more here…

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