An environmental review into a long-awaited access road into the Ring of Fire mineral belt needs to start early next year if the province is serious about meeting its own timelines for getting the road constructed, says one of the region’s mining proponents.
Noront Resources, which is proposing to build the first nickel mine in the RoF about 550 kilometre northeast of Thunder Bay, said that it wants to start building its proposed $700 million mine in 2018.
That’s the same year the province has said it will start building an access road into the RoF by “upgrading existing roads and infrastructure in the region that would connect with future Ring of Fire infrastructure.” For that to happen, says Noront Resources CEO Alan Coutts, the company “believes that environmental assessment work must start in early 2017.”
“The company is therefore, urging the government to table a proposal for the shared use access road before the end of this year.”
A $785,000 study into a proposed access road, which was jointly funded by the province and the feds and overseen by a First Nations consortium, has been completed, but the province has yet to release its findings.
Noront has said it favours an east-west route that would connect its proposed mine site with Pickle Lake. Supporters of that option note there are fewer waterways to traverse and that construction may be able to take advantage of existing logging routes.
Another player, KWG Resources, has been advocating for a north-south rail line. That option would be more expensive to build than a road, but is believed to be cheaper in the long run for transporting ore and other materials out of the Ring of Fire.
On Wednesday, RoF First Nations, Aroland and Marten Falls, reminded both Noront and KWG that they need to consult with the bands while they make proposals for development.
“So far, that hasn’t been happening,” the bands said in a joint news release.
“Our jurisdiction over our territories must be respected and honoured by both the (province) and industries that wish to develop mines or transportation infrastructure on our territories,” the release said.
Both Noront and KWG have earlier pledged to consult First Nations in the RoF belt.
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