‘We are listening’[Ontario government to First Nations] – by Jeff Labine (tbnewswatch.com – May 20, 2012)

http://www.tbnewswatch.com/

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.

This application request followed the announcement that the company planned to build a chromite smelter near Sudbury causing outcry from First Nation communities that Ontario did not pursue proper consultation before making the decision.

Moonias, who earlier this week declared he was willing to die to stop the Ring of Fire development, said the MNR couldn’t go ahead with this application.

“You cannot lawfully consider these applications without fulfilling your constitutional duty of consultation and the granting of an easement, issuance of any land use or other permits to Cliffs in support of its proposed developments would be a further breach of Ontario’s duty to consult,” Moonias said in his letter.

“I am seeking your assurance that no such permit applications by Cliffs or any sub-contractors will be considered or granted until there has been meaningful consultation with Neskantaga First Nation and other impacted First nations.”

Gravelle told Tbnewswatch.com on Sunday that his ministry will not approve any land use applications or permits from Cliffs until they have completed an environmental assessment. He said he just read the letter from Moonias on Friday and would tell him officially about his decision this week.

Now that Cliffs has developed a business plan, Gravelle said all parties can now sit down, formally discuss the Ring of Fire project, and come to an agreement.

“We not only respect but will honour our duty to consult,” Gravelle said. “That’s something we take very, very seriously. I do want to reassure Chief Moonias that there will be no permits issued for the mine or for any other related infrastructure projects particularly and specifically the transportation corridors until there’s been a full environmental assessment.”

“We are listening. We want to work with them on a framework that will meet the needs and aspirations of First Nations. That includes an environmental assessment process, resource revenue sharing, skills training and upgrading and includes all those social economic aspects.”

He added his ministry is working closely with the Ministries of Northern Development and Mines and Aboriginal Affairs to work as closely as possible with First Nation communities in order to reach the same goals.

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