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What's up with the biggest thing happening in mining in NW Ontario?

Ring of Fire News – 20 Feb 12

  • BIG mention of the Ring of Fire in the Drummond Commission report prepared to outline ways to deal with Ontario’s deficit – an excerpt:  “…. This development of major mineral deposits in northern Ontario offers the prospect of substantial socio-economic opportunities for all northern residents, particularly Aboriginal Peoples. The government should collaborate with Aboriginals, industry and the federal government to maximize these opportunities …. Ring of Fire – The Ring of Fire development in northern Ontario represents a significant opportunity to both realize major mineral development in the region and improve socio-economic opportunity and quality of life for Aboriginal People and other residents of the north. Managed properly, the project will provide benefits over several decades. Success in the Ring of Fire will require collaboration between Aboriginal People, industry, and the federal and provincial governments. With a focus on creating a healthy workforce, education and skills training, and basic community infrastructure, the government should take innovative approaches to expand labour-market and training programs for First Nations communities. This approach would include implementing a full range of employment programs and related social supports that are available through social assistance for recipients living on reserve. These include education programs, job-specific training, literacy programs and programs that support young parents. The Commission is optimistic that industry partners will employ Aboriginal People throughout the life of the Ring of Fire and work as partners with government to deliver or fund (perhaps both) the employment and training services required. If voluntary efforts by the business sector lag, the government should consider putting a levy on mining-related activities to directly fund initiatives that will prepare Aboriginal People to participate economically in the Ring of Fire. The government should also enhance its efforts to develop partnerships with the private and not-for-profit sectors in supporting innovative programs such as “Right to Play,” which focus on promoting leadership among Aboriginal youth — essential for future growth and prosperity. The federal and provincial governments also have a responsibility to improve regulatory certainty in order to secure future investment and growth in the region. This should include streamlining and co-ordinating environmental assessment and regulatory processes to improve timelines while ensuring Aboriginal communities have the capacity to fully participate in these processes. Recommendation 13-8: Ensure that the government’s approach to the Ring of Fire maximizes opportunities for Aboriginal People and all Ontarians ….”  Report (~160 page PDF)
  • More on the Drummond team report:  “The president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce says the province’s much-anticipated austerity report may have underestimated potential revenue streams, particularly in the Ring of Fire …. Harold Wilson said …. he told Finance Minister Dwight Duncan two years ago that revenue was what the province should be looking at to make up a portion of the shortfall. “I was kind of surprised,” Wilson said. “I thought they kind of understated the plus side. They could have been taking a look at that more. “The big question is how can the Ontario government try to help and support it so we can see the benefits of this as soon as possible?” In the report Drummond, a former chief economist with the TD Bank, recognizes the Ring of Fire as a significant opportunity to improve socio-economic opportunities in the North, and managed properly can provide benefits over several decades. It also means spending money, contrary to most of the 362 recommendations he made in his 540-page report, including labour support programs for First Nations people ….”  Source
  • L.U. economist Livio DiMatteo on the Drummond Commission report:  “…. The Commission is optimistic that industry partners will employ Aboriginal People throughout the life of the Ring of Fire and work as partners with government to deliver or fund (perhaps both) the employment and training services required. If voluntary efforts by the business sector lag, the government should consider putting a levy on mining-related activities to directly fund initiatives that will prepare Aboriginal People to participate economically in the Ring of Fire. All in all, this is not bad news for the north. The specific focus on the Ring of Fire and its potential benefits for Aboriginal peoples will hopefully provide an impetus for the provincial government to pursue this region as an investment frontier for the entire province ….” Source
  • Remember the Ring of Fire hearings at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources?  One of the tidbits:  Cliffs still deciding where to put a smelter:  “…. There is still no word on where Cliffs will build its processing plant, but the company is supposed to be making an announcement sometime this first quarter, Kilgour said. “There are no guarantees here,” he said. “I think Sudbury is the best option, and Cliffs has stated that as well, but it’s a corporate decision that will be based on dollars, and I think the provincial and federal governments have to get involved to ensure this not only stays in Canada, but in Ontario.” ”  Source
  • More from said hearings:  “Ontario should look to Quebec for answers on how to overcome conflicts between First Nations and mining companies while developing the North, the House of Commons natural resources committee heard Thursday. Quebec is a better place to do business because its provincial government has historically been more adept at outlining the benefits aboriginals deserve when northern resources are exploited, witnesses told the committee’s MPs. “The Quebec advantage is largely that the provincial government has taken over the duty of consultation with the First Nations communities in northern Quebec and that’s become a very tried-and-true process,” said Wes Hanson, president and CEO of Noront Resources Ltd., one of the largest investors in the mineral-rich Ring of Fire region of northern Ontario. “Right now, Noront is working individually with communities and negotiating with individual communities separately, and it’s just not efficient,” said Hanson. “It’s probably the least efficient aspect of the whole process.” Quebec was forced to take the lead on the aboriginal file in the 1970s when its proposed James Bay hydro project ran into considerable opposition from Cree people in the region. The 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement is one of the earliest modern-day land claims and set out the rules for First Nation benefits under the project. “It’s evolved and it’s got 35 years of history,” said Hanson. “I think that’s what’s missing in Ontario.” The agreement laid the groundwork for other land claims in the province, like the 1978 Northeastern Quebec Agreement and the 2008 Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement, which offer political certainty for businesses in nearly all of Quebec’s North. Quebec’s system is “the best in Canada,” said Kirk McKinnon, president and CEO of MacDonald Mines Exploration Ltd. “If you believe the Ring of Fire and the James Bay lowlands offer the opportunity I’m outlining for you, then it requires government leadership in order to bring order, stability and direction.” MacDonald, a small exploration company, is partnered with Hudbay, a much larger firm with operations in North and South America. However, Hudbay is reluctant to invest for fear of political wrangling, McKinnon said. “Companies do not like uncertainty. They are spending over one billion dollars in Peru, but they’re reluctant to spend it in Canada.” ….”  Source alternate source (PDF)
  • Committee members hear part of the reason for the confusion over consultation with First Nations individually and in groups:  “…. jobs training, a say over environmental impacts, funding for assessments – are owed to First Nations because of their aboriginal rights and title to the land, say their representatives. Yet that’s debatable, since First Nations have varying degree of powers over their natural resources, based on the kind of land claim they have and whether or not they’re completed. The patchwork of legal situations across the country is unavoidable in Canada. First Nations are culturally, politically and economically distinct and are under no obligation to function uniformly. What has arisen in this uncertainty are agreements signed without any reference to aboriginal rights and titles. In these cases, First Nations can sometimes decide later they disagree with the terms and walk away, creating a whole new round of uncertainty. Cliffs has a program to provide the Matawa First Nations with prescription drugs used to wean people off Oxycontin addiction. The First Nation requested the program, said William Boor, senior vice-president of Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., who also attended the committee hearings. Cliffs did have IBAs with two of the First Nations in the project’s vicinity during the exploration stage, but those are no longer in effect as the project prepares for production, said Boor. The Ring of Fire is not the only place where aboriginal rights and titles are ambiguous. A brief survey of resource companies on the federal lobbyists registry reveals dozens are asking Ottawa for clarity on their duty to consult aboriginals near a project. The government is performing a review of the federal regulatory regime for major projects. “We need some direction from the Canadian government,” said White Tiger’s Coombes. “What I’m seeing right now disturbs me.” ….” Source
  • Some more tidbits from the hearings (highlights mine:  “Ore mined in the north should be refined in the north as it will mean the difference between “hundreds and thousands” of jobs for northern Ontario, Nickel Belt NDP MP Claude Gravelle said. New Democrat MPs at the Natural Resources Committee had mining companies and First Nations communities sitting side by side Feb. 13 acknowledging the need for real negotiations and partnerships on the business, refining and environment side of the massive Ring of Fire project, according to a news release. “The missing ingredient for Ring of Fire is obviously having real negotiations between the mining companies and First Nations to explore as concretely as possible business, jobs and training opportunities while respecting the environment and treaty,” Gravelle said …. “It was the most obvious message coming from the testimony (Feb. 13). Representatives of the (Matawa) First Nations and Nishnawbe Aski Nation testified they were “pro development” with qualifications, reminding MPs the region has been their homeland long before it became known as Ring of Fire, he stated in the release. “We believe it is important to address both the project-specific, as well as the cumulative and regional environmental effects, of the Cliffs and NORONT projects and to bring together the First Nations provincial and federal governments in an efficient process that will enable our community members to fully participate in the environmental assessment process,” Ring of Fire co-ordinator Raymond Ferris, from the Mattawa First Nations, said. Gravelle stated Cliffs Natural Resources vice-president William Boor testified that 60 per cent of the ore is projected to be refined in Canada, with 40 per cent of the concentrate exported abroad to help pay for operations. After hearing the mining companies signal job opportunities for Aboriginal communities, New Democrat MP John Rafferty cited concerns about the Conservative government ending the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership. “It has helped prepare more than 18,000 Canadians for skilled jobs since 2003, but funding runs out this year. The government has not renewed support,” Rafferty said …. ”  Source
  • Cliffs Natural Resources “Notice of Commencement of Draft Terms of Reference for Provincial Environmental Assessment” published in Chronicle-Journal 13 Feb 12 (full document available at Cliffs web page here)
  • Noront Resources:  we shouldn’t have to pay the whole road-to-the-project cost, and no, we still haven’t decided where the smelter’s going  “…. Noront wants to see a public-private partnership to get that infrastructure going but its ultimately up to government to make it happen. “We don’t see that we should be owners of roads and power lines,” he said. “But we’ll be customers and we’ll pay our share.” While some companies have suggested a north-south rail corridor through Nakina to the ring of fire, Noront wants an east-west route through Pickle Lake. That route would not only help the ring of fire but also the Northern communities around it Semple said. “That’s one of the main drivers for our selection of the route,” he said. The nickel would most likely be shipped to Sudbury because of that city’s existing capacity. But the city processing Noront’s other big claim, chromite, is still being decided, Semple said. The company is still in its first phase with its chromite project, but Semple said Thunder Bay would be one of the cities in the running for its processor. He added, however, that it’s just too early to say where exactly such a facility might go.” ….”  Source
  • MacDonald Mines Exploration Ltd. announces the mobilization of a geophysical crew to begin a ground gravity survey over the Company’s VMS, Ni and Cr targets on the Butler Property in the Ring of Fire ….  The gravity data collected over the Butler property by the OGS – GSC gravity survey confirmed the Company’s interpretation of a large mafic – ultramafic package exists along the eastern portion of the property. The Company has drilled through and into some of the magmatic features to corroborate this interpretation …. The ground gravity survey is being conducted by Abitibi Geophysics and is expected to be completed in February, 2012. A drill program will follow upon completion of the survey and an interpretation of the results ….”  Source
  • Power to the North (1)  “Nishnawbe Aski Nation is calling for all 49 communities to be connected to the Ontario power grid by 2018. The NAN chiefs are looking for a northern electricity transmission system to be owned and operated by NAN regional utilities, with the planning, construction and eventual ownership of the system to be in the hands of First Nations. “We have serious issues regarding sustainable and affordable electrical energy in our communities,” said Grand Chief Stan Beardy. “While we are making strides in planning for the future of generation and transmission, we must deal on a daily basis with our current needs and challenges. 2018 is a reasonable timeline to complete the power grid expansion and connect all NAN communities to the transmission system.” Beardy said the transmission project will stimulate economic growth, provide for business opportunities and enable the development of renewable power generation within the communities ….”  Source
  • Power to the North (2)  “A group of eight Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities are working together to pursue affordable electricity for community members. “This is a huge step forward we are taking as a collective to resolve the systemic problem of underfunding and fuel shortages that plague our communities every year,” said Wawakapewin Chief Joshua Frogg during a Feb. 8 press conference at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay. “We are thankful for the opportunity to show our First Nations are committed to working together to resolve these issues.” Frogg signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) along with representatives from Eabametoong, Muskrat Dam, Nibinamik, North Spirit Lake, Poplar Hill, Weenusk and Wunnumin Lake to work cooperatively to pursue long and short-term goals to provide affordable electricity in their communities ….”  Source

More open source information (excerpts from information monitored 1-20 Feb 12 (PDF) here. All information shared here in accordance with the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act. The blog is not responsible for the accuracy of the source material, and inclusion of material doesn’t mean endorsement.

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