Province looking for First Nation input on Ring of Fire infrastructure – by Shawn Bell (Wawatay News – August 9, 2012)posted in Aboriginal Mining, Ontario Mining, Ontario's Ring of Fire Mineral Discovery |
Northern Ontario’s First Nations Voice: http://wawataynews.ca/
The coordinator of Ontario’s Ring of Fire Secretariat insists the province is committed to working with First Nations on establishing how the north will develop alongside the massive mining projects proposed for the Ring of Fire.
In an interview with Wawatay News, Christine Kaszycki emphasized that the provincial government is thinking of long-term infrastructure needs as it analyzes how best to develop the Ring of Fire. Kaszycki said discussions between the province and First Nations on regional infrastructure planning will begin sometime in the next few months.
“There are a number of initiatives Ontario has put on the table, including regional infrastructure planning and regional environmental monitoring, where the discussions need to include groups of communities,” Kaszycki said.
She said that in her view infrastructure needs includes roads as well as transmission lines to connect communities to southern electricity grids. Kasycki’s pledge to involve First Nations in determining infrastructure needs for the region comes as conflict over the process of developing the Ring of Fire continues to grow.
First Nations in the region have escalated rhetoric against the Ring of Fire since Cliffs and Ontario announced plans for a $3.2 billion project that includes a mine in the Ring of Fire, a north-south transportation corridor and a smelter in Sudbury.
Neskantaga First Nation has pledged to block a road from running across the Attawapiskat River. The Attawapiskat River crossing is an essential part of Cliffs north-south transportation corridor that would see an all-weather road built from Nakina to the Ring of Fire mine sites.
Meanwhile the other transportation options – including an east-west road that would run from the Ring of Fire to Pickle Lake – remain on the table, according to Kasycki, despite the June announcement from Noront Resources that it is reassessing its plan for an east-west transportation corridor given the fact that Ontario is supporting Cliffs’ north-south road.
Kasycki said the third remaining transportation option is a rail corridor that would run north-south, basically along the same route proposed by Cliffs for its road. The rail corridor is being promoted by KWG Resources.
The transportation corridors have all been proposed by the private sector. When asked what role the province plays in determining the transportation routes associated with the mining development, Kasycki said the province relies on the private sector to put forward its proposals.
“The province typically expects the private sector to look at alternatives,” she said. “The province of course is interested in ensuring longer term opportunities for First Nation communities in terms of local access, and also interested in (electricity) transmission.”
Kasycki said the ongoing environmental assessments (EA) happening for both the Cliffs and Noront Ring of Fire projects will examine the transportation options included in the project descriptions. The EAs will take into account impact on the environment and on First Nations.
However, Matawa has filed a judicial review of the EA process for the Ring of Fire. The Tribal Council wants the EA process upgraded to the strictest possible assessment, in part because the assessment Matawa is calling for would take into account environmental affects of a number of projects on the region.
Ontario’s regional infrastructure planning with First Nations will happen as a parallel process with the ongoing EAs, Kasycki said.
She said the discussions between Ontario and northern First Nations need to happen on a regional level, so that regional infrastructure planning and plans for regional environmental monitoring can happen.
Alongside that process, the province will work with individual communities on skills training and other initiatives to help First Nations maximize their benefits of the mining projects.