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Ring of Fire News – 21 May 12

  • Cliffs speaks out via open letter:  Sudbury wasn’t just pulled from a hat as processor location  “…. The leadership of Greenstone has voiced its discontent with our decision. It is a fact that Cliffs explored locating in Greenstone, including the potential of constructing an electric power generating facility nearby. We engaged an outside consulting firm to assess the Greenstone alternative in detail. After reviewing our findings with energy experts, it became clear that Greenstone was not a viable option. With the total cost of the Ring of Fire project in excess of $3 billion, adding hundreds of millions of dollars in capital costs and tens of millions in operating costs would put the economic viability of the project in jeopardy …. ”  Source
  • Cliffs speaks out via open letter in Thunder Bay newspaper:  The REST of the Aroland story (see below for more on Aroland’s concerns)  ” …. Recently, Chief Sonny Gagnon of the Aroland First Nation suggested in the press that he and his community have been left out of discussions related to the Ring of Fire. Actually, Cliffs’ officials have met with Chief Gagnon on many occasions including at our office in Cleveland. We have also made numerous requests to hold informational meetings within his community to no avail thus far. Even with these challenges, we have continued to provide capacity building funding in accordance with an agreement entered into between Cliffs and Aroland First Nation. We remain hopeful that Chief Gagnon will allow us to communicate with his community and will work with us to investigate the opportunities to provide jobs and business opportunities for his people ….”
  • The OTHER big player (so far) responds to the most recent Ring of Fire fracas  “Provincial support of a north-south corridor for Ring of Fire mining resources has Noront Resources officials shaking their heads. “Right now we’re trying to get some clarity as to what that means,” company spokesman Paul Semple said Saturday. Cliffs Natural Resources announced Wednesday that it would build a ferrochrome smelter near Sudbury, and that ore would be trucked south from the mine site along a $600-million all-weather road to Nakina. The provincial government said discussions would begin soon on the proposed road to run south from the Ring of Fire. Noront’s preferred route for transporting base metals and other minerals from its Eagle’s Nest mining project is an east-west link with Pickle Lake and CN Railway in Savant Lake. It had the support of at least four First Nations in the north. “We don’t know yet if that will affect our plans, or what. We’re trying to get a clearer picture of what it means,” Semple said. He noted that Noront and Cliffs already collaborate on some aspects of their mining projects in the James Bay Lowlands. “We talk about various things . . . around the road and access issue, we’re still trying to dissect that,” he said …. ”  Source
  • LOADS of back and forth in the Ontario Legislature, mostly via NDP MPP’s, on the latest ROF developments – more here, here, here, here, here and here.
  • More First Nation Reaction (1a)  The Chief of Neskantaga First Nation says he’s willing to die to ensure his community’s rights are protected in the Ring of Fire. Neskantaga is located at the headwaters of the Attawapiskat River, where the proposed Cliffs mine would be located. Chief Peter Moonias says he’s worried the mine will destroy his community, both from environment and cultural perspectives. “They’re going to have to cross that river, and I told them if they want to cross that river, they’re going to have to kill me first. That’s how strongly I feel about my people’s rights here,” Moonias told CBC News. Moonias said last week’s announcement by the province saying the project was going ahead made him feel like he’d been “sold.” On Monday, lawyers for Neskantaga sent a letter to Rick Bartolucci, Ontario’s Minister of Northern Development and Mines. It says Ontario may have broken the law by striking a deal with Cliffs. Cliffs plans to start mining chromite in the Ring of Fire area by the end of 2013.” Source More (First Nation statement) More (First Nation letter to the editor)more
  • More First Nation Reaction (1b)  Chief Peter Moonias, of Neskantaga First Nation, has the backing of his members to do whatever it takes– legal action, blockading and even acts of “mischief” — to get Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci to negotiate with his community. Moonias has hired a British Columbia lawyer, experienced in native land claims, to represent his 400-member community 35 ki lometres from where Cliffs Natural Resources intends to operate an open-pit chromite mine in the Ring of Fire. Neskantaga members are furious because they say they weren’t consulted by the province before it gave Cliffs approval in principle to mine the deposit and locate a ferrochrome processing plant near Capreol …. “ Source
  • More First Nation Reaction (1c)  Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resource is the latest cabinet minister to be put on notice by the Neskantaga First Nation over plans to develop in the mineral-rich Ring of Fire region in the James Bay Lowlands. Chief Peter Moonias has sent a letter to the Minister Michael Gravelle asking for assurances he won’t issue permits for work on the road to a proposed mine. “You cannot lawfully consider these [permit] applications without fulfilling your constitutional duty of consultation,” Moonias wrote in letter dated May 17. The province announced last week it had reached an agreement in principle with Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources to build a chromite mine in the area about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, as well as a road there and a smelter near Sudbury. Chief Moonias said Friday he was inspired to act by colourfull drawings of fish and teepees he was given by Neskatanga children. He said that’s what the children in his community drew when they were asked what was important to them. “They drew all kinds of stuff there about the land. That tells me something. I almost cried when I was presented those things because these are five-year-olds. Moonias said community members will be active on the Attawapiskat River this summer, ensuring Cliffs Natural Resources stays out. Neskantaga is located at the headwaters of the river. Moonias said he’s concerned the mine will poison the water and kill the fish in the river. He said a more thorough environmental assessment of the project is required. Right now the project is subject to a paper-based federal review. Meanwhile, the chief Thunder Bay Region’s Aroland First Nation is planning his own resistance. Sonny Gagnon said Friday mining trucks and surveyors will be turned back from their route through his community. “It’s not a road block it’s just showing that if the government gives these guys the permits to work in my back yard, then we’ll step it up a notch,” Gagnon said. He too, is seeking dialogue with the government and the company before Cliffs’ project goes ahead.” Source more (text of letter to Minister)
  • Minister of Natural Resources:  We won’t approve roads without consultation  “The Ministry of Natural Resources won’t approve any land us applications from Cliffs Natural Resources applications until an environmental assessment has been completed. Neskantaga First Nation Chief Peter Moonias wrote a letter to Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle last week after he learned that Cliffs had requested land use and other permits to allow the company to start developing the area for construction. These construction projects included roads leading into the Ring of Fire site ….”  Source More (Letter to the editor from Minister of Natural Resources Michael Gravelle)
  • More First Nation Reaction (2)  Members of the Aroland First Nation held a demonstration at the end of Highway 643 in Greenstone (Friday). Chief Sonny Gagnon says concerns over a lack of First Nation consultation and violations of treaty rights have caused First Nation leaders to revolt against Cliffs Natural Resources and the development of their Black Thor chromite deposit located within the Ring of Fire. Gagnon says he’s repeatedly communicated his concerns with both industry and government, and says neither have been listening.”  Source more (First Nation announcement) more (First Nation notice of 15 May 12 community meeting)
  • Column:  “…. If Ontario really wanted the Ring of Fire to be different than other developments across the country that ignored First Nations, it has missed its first good chance. The province was dealing with willing First Nations who were widely in favour of mining. It had an opportunity to show it was serious about First Nations consultation and accommodation. And it could have done so with just a few changes to what the company was pushing for. In the end, communities most affected by the Cliffs decision really only wanted a few things. One, put the processing plant in Greenstone so local people could have a better chance of getting those jobs. Two, connect the transportation network to the communities along the route. Three, power the mine with hydro so the communities surrounding the development could tie into the electricity grid. Sure, the Cliffs decision is only the first step in a decades-long development that will drastically change the region. But as everyone knows, first impressions are often lasting. Ontario had an opportunity to show it was serious about working with First Nations. Instead, it took the easy way out.”  Source
  • Was all this fracas avoidable? One lawyer says yes  “…. Lawyer and mining industry strategist Bill Gallagher said Ontario should have foreseen the confrontation brewing over land use in the province’s mineral-rich Ring of Fire region in the James Bay Lowlands …. Gallagher said the looming conflict will be one of the first testing grounds for the federal government’s contentious new streamlined environmental assessment process, which it announced in its budget in late March. “Cliffs may have picked the wrong time,” he said, because the development in the Ring of Fire is in all likelihood “not going to happen in a hurry.” He added that Ontario lags behind other provinces when it comes to recognizing native treaty rights. “Ontario just hasn’t brought themselves into the modern-day approach in pushing forward without having their ducks lined up, simple as that.” The province “systematically plays it wrong” on aboriginal issues and has had “no real commitment with Northern First Nations,” Gallagher said, speculating that the odds against Ontario winning a court case against First Nations over the Ring of Fire are 10 to 1 ….”  Source
  • Remember Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation’s search for someone to develop a Mining Readiness Strategy?  There’s a new document out here with some interesting questions seeking clarification of the original bid package here and here.  Some tidbits:  “…. The total known budget is approximately $375,000 to $400,000.  The City is applying for additional funding.  The basis of the final award will be dependent upon known funding ….”  Also, several questions regarding “what do you mean by ‘consultation’ and how much would you expect”.
  • Yet another call for NW Ontario to become its own province (good luck getting 7 provinces representing at least 50% of Canada’s population to agree to that)  “Northwestern Ontario often has more in common with western Canada than with Toronto. While Winnipeg claims to be the “Gateway to the West” that role really belongs to Thunder Bay. It has for a long time, ever since soldiers landed at Prince Arthur’s Landing and headed west to quell rebellion in Manitoba. There are times when one can consider that our region is actually held back by decisions made in Toronto and in Queen’s Park. That is political reality, both in Toronto and in Ottawa. There are only three MPPs and MPs representing Northwestern Ontario. Our voices are hard to be heard over the demands of the massive population to the south of our region. That could be seen in the implementation of the Far North Act which was opposed by almost every community, the Chambers of Commerce, and the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation as well. Our voices were not heard then, and remain in many cases unheard. That has been further evidenced during the ongoing consultations between our region and the Ontario Government over the Ring of Fire.  Is the solution, as suggested quietly by Sarah Campbell during Question Period in Queen’s Park, “This government must start representing our needs and interests today; otherwise, its not just Cliffs that will receive an eviction notice from the northwest, it will be the government of Ontario”? If the Ontario government were to be ‘evicted’ from Northwestern Ontario, it would require a great deal of change in our region’s thinking and leadership …. I am not advocating either for, or against the idea that Northwestern Ontario or Northern Ontario would leave Ontario, but under the current government our region appears to be continuing to be seen as a place that raw materials come from, and not much else. It will be up to the people in our region to decide if they are being well served by Queen’s Park and the current status quo.”  Source

More information (excerpts from open sources monitored 1-21 May 12 (98 page 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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