Noront keeps its cool under First Nations eviction threat – by Alisha Hiyate (Mining Markets – June 28, 2012)

Like all the companies working in northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire, Noront Resources (NOT-V) may be about to receive an “eviction notice” from a coalition of six First Nations communities in the remote area of the James Bay lowlands.
On June 22, six northern Ontario First Nations communities issued a press release, warning that they were in the “final stages of issuing a 30-day eviction notice to all mining companies with exploration and development camps in the region.”
But for now, Noront president and CEO Wesley Hanson says it’s “business as usual,” noting that consultations regarding the company’s advanced-stage Eagle’s Nest nickel-copper-PGM project are ongoing. “In fact, the day after they issued the (warning of an) eviction notice, we were in one of the communities doing our consultations,” Hanson said in an interview yesterday, after a Richmond Club luncheon presentation in Toronto.
“Nothing’s official yet, so we’re going to basically conduct business as usual until we get an official notice,” Hanson said. “The government of Ontario is certainly aware of the threat of the eviction notice. My hope would be they would be proactive and try to nip it in the bud and address the concerns as quickly as possible.”
Two of the three communities closest to Noront’s projects, the Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations, did not take part in the notice. The third community, Neskantaga, did, along with the Aroland, Constance Lake, Ginoogaming, Longlake #58 and Nibinamik First Nations.
“Cliffs, Noront and all the other mining companies active in the Ring of Fire will have thirty days from the time the eviction notice is served to pack up their bags and leave our lands,” Chief Sonny Gagnon of the Aroland First Nation said in the release.
The communities want “government to government” talks with the provincial and federal governments, a joint-panel environmental assessment with hearings in the region instead of the currently contemplated comprehensive review, and to negotiate a resource revenue sharing agreement.
The provincial government, for its part, has indicated it’s open to revenue sharing. It also appears eager to see the Ring of Fire developed, and has put in place a “Ring of Fire Secretariat” to get things moving.
Asked about the tensions over development in the Ring of Fire at a recent event in Sudbury, Ont., Premier Dalton McGuinty told the Sudbury Star: “We need to find a way to work through any differences. It’s not an option not to find a way.”
Much of the First Nation coalition’s ire seems to be directed at a lack of consultation regarding Cliffs Natural Resources’ (CLF-N) proposed 340-km north-south road from Nakina to the Ring of Fire.
The Neskantaga First Nation is intervening in a dispute over the proposed road between Cliffs and KWG Resources (KWG-V). The proposed route would go through some of KWG’s claims. The case is set to be heard by the Mining and Lands Commissioner in Toronto on July 5. KWG has a 30% interest in Cliffs’ Big Daddy chromite deposit.
Cliffs’ announcement in May that it will build a ferrochrome smelter for its Black Thor chromite deposit in Sudbury, rather than in the Ring of Fire itself, has been another disappointment for First Nation communities who want maximum benefit from development in the area.
However, Hanson doesn’t believe the actions are aimed at Cliffs per se.
“My sense is it’s more of a reaction to the fact that the government perhaps — and I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus here — but it seems to be more frustration aimed at government, so industry always pays the price.”
The duty to consult with and accommodate First Nations communities over developments on their traditional land belongs to the government, although some aspects of consultation can be delegated to the private sector.
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