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Ring of Fire News – 23 Apr 12

  • Greenstone Mayor not giving up the fight for a chromite processing facility  “Your story regarding Cliffs’ refinery decision declares victory on the basis of an interview with Mayor Hobbs who speaks only for the City of Thunder Bay.  I speak for Greenstone. We will continue to advance our plan to expand the economic impact of the Ring of Fire across Northwestern Ontario, which includes the smelter being sited at Exton in Greenstone.  This includes getting First Nations communities the access to electricity from the grid that they deserve.  Sure, Sudbury has been the base case for a long time now, but there’s a missing piece in the Sudbury equation: The aspirations of First Nations in the Ring of Fire area are not properly factored into the base case.  Increasingly, it is clear that failing to consider the needs of First Nations will seriously compromise the long-term success of the Ring of Fire.  If The Sudbury Star wants to say that Greenstone lacks the electricity for the refinery, than it should also be said that the Ring of Fire mine site itself lacks the electricity for mining  activities.  Clearly, a project of this enormity isn’t going to take place with Ontario’s current electricity infrastructure. Let’s not forget the TransCanada pipeline travels through our community.  Can the province that worked so hard to close its coal power plants, support a plan to use 50 MW diesel generation at the mine site for the next 50 to 100 years?  The Canadian National Railway travels though our community.  Transportation-wise Greenstone sits squarely and I would say strategically at the base of the Ring of Fire’s north-south corridor.  Yes, the same one favoured by Cliffs in its current infrastructure plan. I think it’s a pretty good advantage that all of the chromite is set to run past our door. When I looked at the map last, it is hundreds and hundreds of kilometers closer than Sudbury. Even when you factor in the shipping of materials added to the refining process sourced from the U.S., Greenstone enjoys a significant cost and immense environmental advantage over Sudbury in transportation.  Whoever said that Greenstone can’t meet the workforce needs for a Cliffs refinery hasn’t done their homework. Talk to any industrial human resources professional in the region and ask about the stampede when they post jobs. And stop discounting the workforce potential of area First Nations.  On a head-to-head technical basis, Sudbury and Greenstone are competitive.  But when Cliffs and Ontario factor in the endorsement of First Nations for the refinery at Exton, the advantage tilts in Greenstone’s favour.  We will continue to make that case. I know that’s what the First Nations will expect to hear when the CEO of Cliffs speaks in Northwestern Ontario May 1.  (signed) Renald Beaulieu Mayor of Greenstone”  Source More from the In Support of Mining blog
  • First Nations, Greenstone:  Nakina, not Sudbury, for the smelter/processing facility!  “Northern Ontario First Nations leaders and mayors recently held a summit to demonstrate solidarity in their belief that opportunities and benefits of resource development related to the Ring of Fire remain in the area. Leaders from Lake Nipigon and Ring of Fire North/South Alliance First Nations met on April 14 with mayors of Greenstone, Nipigon, Hearst and Thunder Bay to discuss the area 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay that is rich in “globally-significant” minerals such as chromite and nickel.  The group’s Ring of Fire resolution supports Exton (between Aroland First Nation and Nakina) as the preferred refinery site and a north-south access route to Marten Falls. This resolution was signed by six First Nations – Marten Falls First Nation, Aroland First Nation, Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinabeek First Nation, Constance Lake First Nation, Animiigoo Zaagi*igan Anishinabeek First Nation, and Red Rock Indian Band  – and the four regional mayors.  Chief Elijah Moonias of Marten Falls First Nation, on whose traditional lands the Ring of Fire chromite deposits are located, said they want a company interested in studying the project in partnership with the communities.  “The companies want to come in and exploit the resources and leave nothing behind for local long-standing benefits such as electric grid connection and roads access – both a boost to the local economy,” he told the gathering held in Greenstone ….”  Source More – more Link to news releasePDF copy of news release
  • Northeastern Ontario mayors pissed at Ontario Northland railway being sold off  “A campaign by local mayors to halt the sale of Ontario Northland Transportation Commission hit a brick wall Thursday.  Mayors from Timmins, Cochrane, Iroquois Falls, Kapuskasing and North Bay met with Northern Development Minister Rick Bartolucci in Toronto to discuss the government’s recent announcement to divest the ONTC.  “The minister was willing to listen but the end result was that in his mind, the divestiture is in the budget and if the budget passes, it’s a done deal,” Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren told The Daily Press.  “We really felt as the municipalities being affected that we should be part of the solution and at least be working with the government on a solution … As far as he’s concerned, divestiture is not an issue we should be talking about, it’s non-negotiable.”  Laughren said what was even “more troubling” was the fact the provincial government made the announcement without any firm plan in place.  “That’s where my discouragement was: We didn’t get any details from him as to how this is going to unfold, when it was going to unfold. The only thing I can tell you is that Infrastructure Ontario will be in charge of it. It was the lack of details that really scares me more than anything else.”  Laughren said the mayors were told by Bartolucci that the government’s hope is that they will come out of this with a better, more modern and cost-efficient service. The Timmins mayor said it was difficult to accept Bartolucci’s comments at face value.  “We had no dialogue before the announcement was made and obviously with him having no plans, it’s pretty hard for anybody to comment on whether they think it’s going to be better or not when he couldn’t give us any details.” ….”  Source More moremore
  • Talking Ontario Northland railway in the Ontario Legislature  “Mr. Victor Fedeli: Speaker, communities in Nipissing are speaking out against the proposed fire sale by this government of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. I have assured all groups that I will read their motions in this Legislature.  The townships of Bonfield and Chisholm have both passed motions endorsing the city of North Bay resolution, which calls on Premier Dalton McGuinty to honour his pledge and suspend the government of Ontario’s plans to divest the assets of the ONTC in order to permit affected stakeholders, in the form of a community task force, time to devise a more thoughtful business case that will keep the ONTC whole, while respecting the stated goals of the northern growth plan, and, Bonfield and Chisholm go on to say, that the province of Ontario start to immediately transition responsibility for the ONTC from the MNDM to the Ministry of Transportation.  North Bay city council passed a further resolution this week noting that the multimodal transportation study started under this government’s growth plan isn’t sufficiently developed to fully understand the implications of divesting the ONTC, and that the decision to divest was unilaterally made by the province with absolutely no consultation with local government, aboriginal peoples, businesses or the provincially appointed northern advisory council.  Speaker, they request a meeting with the northern stakeholders, as requested in correspondence from the northern mayors.”  Source (statement by MPP) more (Question Period exchange) more
  • Still a glimmer of hope for the rail line, though?  “Canadian National Railway may still be interested in purchasing the ONTC’s rail division.  CN spokesman Mark Hallman said company will be “carefully assessing the opportunity” created by the provincial government’s decision to divest itself of the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.  CN was in negotiations with the province about a decade ago to purchase the ONR, but the deal fell through in 2003 because the company was unwilling to grant job guarantees demanded by the Conservative government of the day.  The spectre of privatization now looms over the Crown agency and conjecture about a potential purchase by CN has resurfaced from time to time.  Brian Kelly, spokesman for the ONTC unions, said CN is essentially seen as the only player in the game when it comes to the sale of the ONR.  He said Canadian Pacific Railway operations are mainly focused in areas west of Thunder Bay.  Kelly said he believes CN would be interested in the ONR to “hedge its bets” when it comes to playing a role in the Ring of Fire chromite find in the James Bay area.  The site is in a remote area without rail lines, all-season roads, electricity or communications networks. Three companies have been exploring the site to better define what minerals are there. But no decision have yet been made about how and by what route the site will be accessed ….”  Source
  • Timmins-James Bay NDP MPP:  Rail line an election issue?!?!  “MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP – Timmins-James Bay) says his party has presented the Ontario Liberals with an ultimatum in order to avoid another provincial election.  The Dalton McGuinty government can vote to support the NDP’s budget motion by the April 24 deadline – or face the likelihood of seeing Ontarians go back to the polls.  Bisson said the motions put forward by the NDP includes a plan to save the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission from divestment.  A key concern is how dismantling the ONTC will hinder the potential for Northeastern communities to tap into the mining and economic opportunities being created in the Ring of Fire, within the James Bay lowlands.  “We were extremely disappointed when Mr. McGuinty and Mr. (Rick) Bartolucci announced they were going ahead with the divestiture, which means only the lucrative parts of the ONTC are going to be taken over by the private sector, and the subsidized parts will be gone,” said Bisson.  “The Ring of Fire is a huge opportunity for Northern Ontario. If the province took the position of helping develop infrastructure to the sites, it will reduce the cost of building the sites for the mining company and, we can say, in exchange they can process their chromite and nickel in Ontario and deal with the price of hydro in Ontario.” ….”  Source
  • Canada fleshes out new rules for speedier environmental assessments…..  “The Harper Government …. announced, as part of Economic Action Plan 2012, its plan for Responsible Resource Development, which will streamline the review process for major economic projects. The plan was announced by the Honourable Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, at Automatic Coating Limited in Toronto, which produces high-performance liquids and powder coating used on oil and gas pipelines in Canada and other countries …. The Harper Government will create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity through Responsible Resource Development by:  Moving toward a “one project, one review” system for reviews of major projects by recognizing provincial processes as substitutes or equivalents to federal ones as long as they meet the requirements under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act ….  Setting timelines for hearings and assessments, namely, 24 months for panel reviews, 18 months for National Energy Board hearings and 12 months for standard environmental assessments …. Focusing federal assessment efforts on major projects that can have significant environmental effects …. “  Source (news release) More more
  • …. and what it means for Aboriginal consultation ….  “…. The legal duty to consult applies to Crown conduct that may have an impact on existing or potential Aboriginal or Treaty rights, whether or not there is an environmental assessment. All projects, including smaller ones, will continue to be subject to environmental requirements of relevant federal and provincial laws, regulations and standards and, in these cases, the federal government will meet its consultation obligations. The Government of Canada will also take steps to ensure that the legal duty to consult is fulfilled in cases where substitution or equivalency provisions are used ….”  Source (Backgrounder)
  • …. with some happy with the proposed new rules ….  “The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) welcomes the federal government’s plan for responsible resource development announced today.  “We commend the federal government for its goal of a system that provides predictable and timely reviews, reduced duplication, strengthened environmental protection and enhanced Aboriginal consultation,” says PDAC Executive Director Ross Gallinger.  “The mineral exploration and development industry needs an efficient regulatory regime that encourages investment by providing certainty and predictability for resource development projects,” says Gallinger. “An effective regulatory system is a key factor in a company’s decision about where to invest.”  The federal government’s Responsible Resource Development plan also includes measures “to ensure that Aboriginal groups are more fully engaged in the environmental assessment and regulatory permitting process from beginning to end and that possible impacts on their potential or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights are given due consideration in decision-making.”  As an advocate for greater clarity regarding the Crown’s consultation requirements, community engagement and project permitting, the PDAC welcomes this inclusion in the plan.  “We look forward to hearing more about the series of measures aimed at enhancing consultations with Aboriginals, such as better integrating Aboriginal consultations into the review process and clarifying expectations and levels of consultation for project reviews,” says Gallinger ….”  Source
  • …. and others not so much:  “Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is warning that changes to the environmental regulatory process will lead to direct confrontation on the ground. Yesterday, the federal government released details of a plan to overhaul the environmental review process for major projects as announced during the recent federal budget.  Currently, Environmental Assessment processes are underway in the Ring of Fire region within NAN, and more major projects are expected to take place. In November 2011, First Nations in the Matawa region, within the Ring of Fire, filed a judicial review against the Environment Minister’s decision to proceed with a comprehensive environmental assessment process for the proposed Cliffs Chromite Project, as opposed to a joint panel review they had called for. This judicial review is expected to be heard in the fall of 2012.  “Consultation and accommodation, let alone consent, have not been met with First Nations. I am concerned with how regulatory reform will affect First Nations, including their ability to meaningfully participate in an environmental assessment process that is proposed to be fast-tracked and unchanged in funding capacity,” said Grand Chief Stan Beardy. “No matter how the regulatory system might be changed, First Nations will exercise their inherent authority to provide free, prior and informed consent to any major project taking place in their territories after an environmental assessment takes place.”  …. “Instead of fast-tracking projects and circumventing environmental concerns, the federal government should work with the province to develop an approach to resource development that recognizes and respects the rights and interests of First Nations,” said Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose. “The first step would be to initiate substantive discussions with us on the recognition of First Nation jurisdiction over our lands, including resource revenue sharing and opportunities for our communities through education and training, employment and business development.” …. “  Source

More open source information (excerpts from information monitored 1-23 Apr 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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