Ring of Fire Updates Weekly News Roundup

February 25 – March 2, 2020 : Weekly News Roundup

This week two announcements were made at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention that could represent an acceleration of the Ring of Fire development.

Ford convened a press conference on March 2nd alongside Chiefs from Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations (the proponents leading the environmental assessment processes for the two access roads leading to the Ring of Fire), announcing that the three parties had signed an agreement committing to an environmental study of a road that would connect these northern communities and the Ring of Fire. In some ways this was a non-announcement, as the environmental impacts of two access roads leading to the Ring of Fire are already currently being studied through environmental impact assessment processes (some of which are federal and thus not in Ford’s control). Ford has also still not committed any money to this study. In the aftermath of the press conference, Neskantaga First Nation and Fort Albany First Nation, as well as a representative from the Omushkegowuk Women’s Water Council, expressed dismay that this announcement had been made without their participation and emphasized their right to free, prior, and informed consent in all decisions around their territories (see hyperlinks for their full statements).

Another announcement that received significantly less press (likely because Trudeau was speaking in another room, at the same conference), came from Chiefs of the Matawa First Nations – with a few notable leaders missing from the room. Chiefs from Eabametoong, Long Lake #58, Webequie, Ginoogaming, and Marten Falls First Nations announced that the Matawa Chiefs had signed memorandums of understanding with four companies – PCL Construction, Enterprise Canada, Ontario Power Generation, and EPCOR Canada – to work together around developing infrastructure in the North. They are calling this project “A New Way Forward”. During their announcement, it was emphasized that these partnerships would allow these communities to expand and deepen their infrastucture without needing to rely on the support of the government.

Earlier that day, a Northwestern Ontario coalition called the East-West Ring of Fire Road Coalition spoke at Queen’s Park advocating for the province to consider a different road path to the Ring of Fire that they say would have a smaller environmental impact. This road option was rejected in the past because of resistance from nearby communities.

February 26, 2020 (Media Release):

Northwestern Ontario coalition seeks support for environmental assessment of East-West route to the Ring of Fire

“The East-West Ring of Fire Road Coalition (EWRFC) seeks provincial and federal government support for an EA process focused on road access to the Ring of Fire. The EWRFC contends this route benefits the greatest number of Ontario communities and has the least environmental impact. The route will provide all-season road access and enhance the economic opportunities associated with the Ring of Fire (a massive deposit of chromite and other strategic minerals).” Read more here…

February 26, 2020 (Toronto Star):

Hasty development of Ontario’s Ring of Fire could have devastating impacts

“The current wave of protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en is about respecting Indigenous rights, but also about responsibility — our collective responsibility to protect increasingly endangered ecosystems and some of Canada’s most intact natural areas. Failing to consider the value of such areas — for people, for biodiversity, and for our climate — before making development decisions is increasingly leading to conflict.We are on the cusp of a similar situation in Ontario, where plans to build roads to the Ring of Fire in the far north are being pursued in a way that similarly ignores the big picture.” Read more here…

March 2, 2020 (CBC):

Ring of Fire was ‘overhyped,’ but still ‘worth the effort’ says Noront Resources

Current plan is for construction of mine to start in 2021 and to open in 2024

“Like with anything that is overhyped, people are usually disappointed,” says Alan Coutts, CEO of Noront Resources, which is now the main player in the Ring of Fire. Noront is now looking to develop the same chromite deposit Cliffs once owned, plus several other chromite and nickel properties in the area, with the hope of starting construction in 2021, pulling out the first minerals in 2024 and the building of a new smelter in Sault Ste. Marie to process the ore in 2025. “If these were just kind of so-so projects you might ask ‘Is this really going to happen?’ The projects are so good that it’s worth all this effort to get them up and running,” Coutts says. “The underlying value of the projects is astounding.” Read more here…

March 2, 2020 (CBC):

Ontario government signs agreement with two First Nations on Ring of Fire road

But the chief of Neskantaga says his community will oppose the development

“Premier Doug Ford and Kenora MP Greg Rickford, the minister of energy, mines, northern development and Indigenous affairs signed an agreement Monday with Webequie and Marten Falls First Nations to move forward with a north-south road to the Ring of Fire. The signing ceremony took place at the annual Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto. “We look forward to working together with Ontario to ensure the sustainable development of our ancestral territories,” Marten Falls First Nation Chief Bruce Achneepineskum said in a statement. “We are moving ahead with this agreement so all communities in the region can connect to the next phase, which is to secure and bring good-paying jobs in mining, construction and other skilled trades to our communities.” Read more here…

March 2, 2020 (Globe and Mail):

Ontario, First Nations agree to study road to Ring of Fire

“Ontario Premier Doug Ford sat alongside two First Nations chiefs at a Toronto mining conference on Monday, pledging support for an environmental study of a road that would connect to their remote Northern communities and the region known as the Ring of Fire. Mr. Ford has repeatedly promised to open up the purported mineral riches of the Ring of Fire, 550 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, by hopping on a bulldozer himself. But Monday’s announcement included no cash for the road, last estimated to cost $1.6-billion – only a pledge to study it.” Read more here…

March 2, 2020 (Net News Ledger):

Noront statement on new partnership between government of Ontario, Marten Falls, and Webequie First Nations

“Noront Resources Ltd. (“Noront” or the “Company”) (TSX Venture: NOT) is pleased to acknowledge the agreement announced today between the provincial government, Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation to advance planning and development of a proposed Northern Road Link that will provide reliable, all-season road access to mine sites in the Ring of Fire and connect First Nation communities to Ontario’s provincial highway network.” Read more here…

March 2, 2020 (Ontario government news release):

Ontario and First Nations working together to create jobs and prosperity for the North

“The Government of Ontario, Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation are taking a major step forward in unlocking jobs and opportunity in Northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire region by entering into a historic agreement to advance the planning and development of a proposed Northern Road Link.” Read more here…

March 2, 2020 (Toronto Star):

Ontario signs Ring of Fire agreements with two northern First Nations

“Ontario has signed agreements with two Indigenous communities in a move the government says is a step forward in its plans to build road access to the Ring of Fire region. Premier Doug Ford announced the new deals with the Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation at a mining conference in Toronto on Monday.” Read more here…

March 2, 2020 (Media Release):

Matawa First Nations forge new path forward looking to major companies to assist in controlling development of community infrastructure

“Chiefs of the Matawa First Nations in Northern Ontario announced Monday they are creating a New Way Forward in developing community infrastructure in their traditional territory. Discussions are ongoing with PCL Construction, Enterprise Canada, Ontario Power Generation and EPCOR Canada to determine how best to meet the infrastructure needs in Matawa communities. Matawa First Nations will play a lead role in developing Northern infrastructure and guiding the Emerging Northern Economy. Through new relationships with leading Canadian companies, an innovative new approach to financing and managing the construction the needs of these communities can be defined for Matawa communities who have long waited for crucial infrastructure that will bring their people the stability and hope that they deserve.” Read more here…

March 2, 2020 (Northern Ontario Business):

The road to Ring of Fire needs to go east-west, say northwest communities

Road coalition wants Queen’s Park to consider “all access routes” into Far North mineral camp

“A forgotten path into the Ring of Fire still remains on the radar for a group of northwestern Ontario community leaders and businesses. The East-West Ring of Fire Coalition went to Queen’s Park during mining week in Toronto to lobby government for support of a permanent road into the Ring of Fire. The group claims an east-west route will deliver greater spinoffs and social benefits to area communities, compared to the north-south road being championed by the provincial government and the mining industry.” Read more here

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