19th September 2014

New planning tool could lead to ‘better results, less confrontation’ – by Bryan Phelan (Wawatay News – September 18, 2014)


Representatives of environmental groups and Matawa First Nations Management (MFNM) had preliminary talks earlier this year about Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment (R-SEA) as a new planning tool for the Ring of Fire.

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment once praised R-SEA as “an inherently proactive approach” and “a means to ensure that planning and assessment for a region support the most desired outcomes rather than the most likely one.”

There are numerous examples from around the world where R-SEA has been used successfully, including in Vietnam, Mauritius, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, says Anna Baggio, director of conservation planning for Wildlands League. “It produces better results and helps avoid confrontations and legal challenges.”

Baggio organized a meeting in February when informal discussion of an R-SEA for the Ring of Fire took place. In addition to Wildlands League, other environmental groups represented at the gathering were Mining Watch, WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) Canada, and Ecojustice. Also present were various Matawa advisors and experts, Baggio said.

She anticipated a follow-up meeting after the nine chiefs of the Matawa tribal council and the Ontario government signed a framework agreement in March for negotiations on development in the Ring of Fire. Read the rest of this entry »

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19th September 2014

Environmental groups pitch planning solution for Far North – by Bryan Phelan (Wawatay News – September 18, 2014)


Ontario’s three major political parties promised during the 2014 provincial election campaign to speed mining development in the Ring of Fire.

At the same time, however, two environmental groups were making finishing touches on a report calling for the province to put the brakes on that development, at least for now.

Just four days after the Liberals were re-elected to power in June, the environmental groups Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada and Ecojustice released a report suggesting Ontario needs a whole new approach to planning for the Far North. In the meantime, no Ring of Fire projects should be approved, the groups said in their report, titled Getting it Right in Ontario’s Far North: The Need for Strategic Environmental Assessment in the Ring of Fire (Wawangajing).

The existing legal framework for industrial development in the region is “broken,” said Anastasia Lintner, a lawyer and economist who co-authored the report on behalf of Ecojustice along with a conservation scientist from WCS, Cheryl Chetkiewicz. Part of the problem, they showed, is that planning taking place now is piecemeal and narrowly focused on individual projects or pieces of projects. “The Far North faces uncoordinated resource development with little consideration for cumulative impacts (of multiple projects),” the co-authors wrote in the report’s summary. Read the rest of this entry »

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18th September 2014

Ontario’s ‘Ring Of Fire’ In Limbo: Cliffs Resources Says It Wants Out – by Sunny Freeman (Huffington Post – September 18, 2014)


The largest player in the efforts to develop large-scale mining in Ontario’s Ring of Fire is signalling that it is looking to unload its $3.3-billion project in the region.

Cliffs Natural Resources said Thursday that it sent a letter to the Marten Falls First Nation to alert the band that it is exploring “strategic alternatives,” which could include a sale of its stalled Black Thor chromite project. The U.S. mining giant has been struggling with debt amid low commodity prices in recent years.

Marten Falls is one of nine First Nations that will be most affected by development in the 5,000 square kilometre crescent believed to contain $50 billion worth of mineral deposits. “We should expect there will be a change, with a sale of the project one of the potential outcomes,” Cliffs executive Bill Boor said in the letter, The Globe and Mail reported.

Cliffs spokeswoman Patricia Persico said the letter was sent only to the Marten Falls First Nation to update them on the company’s situation, as it directs resources to focus on its iron ore business.

“Marten Falls First Nation is an important stakeholder to Cliffs and this business update is part of our normal course of business with them,” she told Huffington Post Canada.

KWG Resources, which already has a chromite project in the area, said Thursday that it is in talks with Cliffs to acquire the stalled Black Thor project and is looking into how to finance a deal. Read the rest of this entry »

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17th September 2014

[Canada] Mines ministers talk transparency in Ontario (Northern Miner – September 17, 2014)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry. 

Sudbury played host to this year’s Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference in late August. The annual gathering of federal and provincial mining and energy ministers is meant to foster discussion and collaboration to advance development across the country.

In a statement released after the meeting, the attendees affirmed their commitment to the following principles:

• The responsible development of Canada’s energy and mines sectors is critical to our economic competitiveness, job creation and long-term prosperity

• Provincial and territorial governments will work with the federal government in support of Canada’s commitment to establish new mandatory reporting standards for Canadian extractive companies, with a view to enhancing transparency of payments made to governments

• The continued advancement of energy infrastructure (e.g., oil, gas, electricity, etc.) projects is fundamental to gain access to new markets and generate economic growth and revenue for critical social programs

• Progress is being made by all levels of government in implementing regulatory reform in a way that ensures the environment is protected Read the rest of this entry »

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17th September 2014

Hard-luck aboriginal community to get unusual Royal visit — the first since its treaty was signed in 1929 – by Adrian Humphreys (National Post – September 17, 2014)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Hunters in 14 boats pushed off Tuesday from the isolated northern reserve of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation, fanning out across Big Trout Lake and down its myriad tributaries, looking to bag moose, caribou, geese — anything delicious enough to serve to the Royal Family.

Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex, wife of Prince Edward, who is the youngest son of the Queen and Prince Philip, is making a highly unusual, two-day visit this week to the remote, fly-in only aboriginal community in northern Ontario. It’s a reserve struggling with poor housing, unemployment, drug addiction and inadequate education facilities.

Joining her will be a high-powered entourage of women: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne; Lieutenant Governor-designate Elizabeth Dowdeswell; Ruth Ann Onley, wife of David Onley, the lieutenant governor; Vicki Heyman, wife of the U.S. ambassador to Canada; and others.

“We are just trying to grasp it now. The last time anyone came here from the Crown was in 1929 when we signed our treaty,” said Chief Donny Morris of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, known as KI.

“To have someone from the Royal Family, representing that, reliving that, I think that’s what we’re excited about — somebody actually coming here 85 years after we signed the treaty with the Crown.” It will be an unusual few days for the VIPs. Read the rest of this entry »

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15th September 2014

Ring of Fire development picture looks no clearer, strategist – by Ian Ross (Northern Ontario Business – September 15, 2014)

Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North. Ian Ross is the editor of Northern Ontario Business ianross@nob.on.ca.

A management shakeup at Cliffs Natural Resources has some mining analysts believing the possible departure of the Cleveland-based mining giant from the Ring of Fire camp could open the door for other international producers to make a move.

But that’s not the opinion of Bill Gallagher, a leading mining strategist. With competing and divergent stakeholder agendas at play, combined with a muddled development picture, the overall uncertainty in the remote James Bay mineral exploration camp may drive off any new investment or mining entrants.

“You could not get a more polarized set of opinions around a non-existent project,” said Gallagher. “How many (news) reports have to come out that show that everybody’s on a different page? There’s nobody singing a unifying theme.”

Gallagher is a former federal negotiator, a strategist specializing in mining and First Nations negotiations, and a published expert on Native empowerment in the Canadian resource industry.

Cliffs won a major court ruling in July to gain overland access to its Black Thor chromite deposit. But the timing of the decision may be too late for the Ohio iron and coal miner to see its proposed $3.3-billion Black Thor chromite mine and Sudbury refinery project come to fruition. Read the rest of this entry »

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15th September 2014

De Beers studies [Ontario] Victor extension as end of mine life looms (Northern Miner – September 12, 2014)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry.

With a mine life that ends in 2018, the ore is running out at Ontario’s only diamond mine — De Beers’ Victor mine, 90 km west of Attawapiskat.

The open-pit mine, which began production in 2008, produces around 600,000 carats of high-value diamonds a year from a single 15-hectare kimberlite. But with 15 other diamond-bearing kimberlite pipes at the project, there is potential for an extended mine life at Victor.

De Beers has already started an environmental assessment on the Tango Extension kimberlite, the most promising of the other pipes in the Victor cluster. Situated about 6.5 km northwest of the Victor mine, the company believes it could extend Victor’s mine life by seven years.

The company is studying the potential to mine Tango Extension as an open-pit operation at a rate of 3 million tonnes per year. However, the project is not yet economic. The Tango Extension kimberlite is smaller, lower-grade, and contains less valuable diamonds than Victor.

While Victor is a low-grade mine at around 0.23 carat per tonne, its diamond values are among the highest in the world at more than US$400 per carat. So far, samples from Tango Extension indicate the quality is good, but they won’t fetch the same kind of price per carat as Victor diamonds, says Tom Ormsby, De Beers Canada’s director of external and corporate affairs, Read the rest of this entry »

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15th September 2014

‘Building our society and economy’: Government and industry should be open to new approaches, Webequie chief says – by Bryan Phelan (Onotassiniik Magazine – Fall 2014)


Cornelius Wabasse says he has focused his three terms as chief of Webequie First Nation on community development; on finding ways for his community to prosper.

At the same time, “We have a lot of community needs, social problems as well,” Wabasse said as a panelist at the Ontario Mining Forum. It would take $28 million to bring infrastructure for the 765 people in Webequie up to the Canadian standard, according to a band study finding made public last year.

Webequie is located 540 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, where the Mining Forum took place June 18-19. It’s also close to the Ring of Fire, a geologically rich area of minerals.

Wabasse and leaders of eight other First Nations that make up the Matawa Chiefs Council signed a framework agreement with Ontario in the spring to guide regional negotiations for mining development in the area.

“We must enter into enduring agreements, new relationships, with both (the federal and provincial) governments and industry as part of the Ring of Fire development,” Wabasse said of the challenges ahead. “We must be involved in ways that respect our treaty rights, support our communities, protect our culture, and build our society and economy. We expect both government and industry to be open to new and innovative ways for these benefits to be realized.” Read the rest of this entry »

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15th September 2014

Wabauskang First Nation set to appeal after Ontario Superior Court rules against band – by Alan S. Hale (Kenora Daily Miner and News – September 12, 2014)


Wabauskang First Nation says it will attempt to appeal a ruling by the Ontario Superior Court that the provincial government had not unlawfully delegated its constitutional responsibility to consult with the First Nation to Rubicon Minerals which wants to open a gold mine near Red Lake.

The local aboriginal community has applied to the Ontario Court of Appeal for permission to launch an appeal of the decision released by the superior court on Aug. 28 which ruled the province had fulfilled its obligation to consult Wabauskang and so its approval of the closure plan for Rubicon’s mine project was valid.

“I am persuaded that the institutional process established by Ontario by which it assessed the potential or actual impact of a claim was reasonable,” reads the judgement. “I am also satisfied that the assessment made by Ontario regarding the mine production stage in this case was reasonable: it recognized that (Wabauskang First Nation) had rights under Treaty 3 (and) it considered all potential effects deriving from (Wabauskang’s) Treaty 3 rights.”

Not surprisingly, the chief of Wabauskang, Martine Petiquan, does not agree with the court’s assessment, and so they intend to continue taking the issue to the next level.

“Our Treaty rights and our relationship and responsibilities with our lands and territory must be respected,” said Petiquan. Read the rest of this entry »

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12th September 2014

Former AFN executive promotes P3 model for Ring of Fire infrastructure – by Bryan Phelan (Onotassiniik Magazine – Fall 2014)


Public-private partnerships, also known as P3s, will be considered as a mechanism for building the power supply, roads and other assets needed to enable mining development in the Ring of Fire. Dale Booth, who has held senior positions with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AANDC), is sure of it.

“I can guarantee it, P3s are going to be … looked at very closely for the Ring of Fire, and not only for the power transmission, not only the transportation,” Booth predicted during a presentation on the topic at the Ontario Mining Forum in June.

The P3 model should also be considered for building infrastructure in First Nations near the Ring of Fire and elsewhere, said Booth, president of Tiree Innovation, a First Nations company located in the Mohawk community of Akwesasne.

“It allows communities access to external capital for their infrastructure and … it’s an effective model to get things done on time and on budget,” he said.

How does the P3 model work? Essentially, federal and provincial governments fund and finance the infrastructure, along with private equity sources, Booth explained, and a private sector partner builds and maintains it.

The P3 model has been applied to more than 200 projects across Canada, from roads to schools to hospitals, although the approach is relatively new to First Nations, said Mark Romoff, president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships. Read the rest of this entry »

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10th September 2014

Illegal Gold Miners In Brazil Destroying Amazon, Indigenous Tribes At Risk – by Alex Létourneau (Kitco News – September 10, 2014)


(Kitco News) – Illegal gold mining is by no means a new phenomenon, but it has been getting more and more attention with gold’s decade-long bull run. In the past, the focus on illegal gold mining has been more about the money countries are losing, but the spotlight is how starting to shift to the impact of these illegal practices on the environment.

At the moment, the Amazon rainforest, Earth’s largest rainforest, is seeing a growing number of illegal miners operating within it, causing environmental damage and disrupting Indigenous tribes living on government protected land.

In a joint statement to Kitco News, Marco W. Lentini, head of the Amazon program of WWF-Brazil, and Jean Timmers, superintendent of public policy at WWF-Brazil, said the region between the Amapá state in Brazil and French Guiana is one area that is experiencing major problems.

The two added that although there aren’t any specific survey’s documenting the number of illegal miners in the area “ it can certainly reach tens of thousands workers across the Amazon.”

“Illegal mining has intensified land use conflicts and also give incentives to encroach and access remote areas within protected areas in the Amazon, frequently with great conflicts with indigenous and other traditional populations,” they said. Read the rest of this entry »

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10th September 2014

Ring of Fire: First Nations scold Mines Minister Michael Gravelle – by Jody Porter (CBC News Thunder Bay – September 10, 2014)


First Nations ‘grow weary’ of being shut out of decisions

CBC News has obtained letters from several First Nations in the Ring of Fire detailing a breakdown in the relationship with Ontario that could threaten the already fragile mining project.

Chiefs are reacting to the Aug. 28 announcement that the new Ring of Fire Infrastructure Development Corporation was established with an interim board, made up of four senior Ontario civil servants, and no First Nations representatives.

“I am growing weary of your lack of attention to EFN’s [Eabametoong First Nation's] concerns and our clearly stated request to work collaboratively,” wrote Chief Elizabeth Atlookan in an Aug. 29 letter to Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle.

“I know you have heard EFN’s concerns, but the MNDM continued to push this item forward, particularly in the press,” Atlookan wrote.

“So, are we to be ‘key’ partners in this potential development, as your press release states, if EFN’s legitimate requests are being ignored? Not likely.” Gravelle said the Aug. 28 announcement was necessary to meet an election promise, and to appease “other interests.” Read the rest of this entry »

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10th September 2014

First Nations protesters shut down northern B.C. drilling site – by Mark Hume (Globe and Mail – September 9, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

VANCOUVER — After a summer of protests aimed at mining companies, members of the Tahltan Nation in northern B.C. say they have shut down an exploratory drilling operation by taking over the site.

“HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!!!!” states a Monday night posting on the Facebook page for Tahltan elders. “The Klabona Keeper members are occupying a black hawk drill pad above Ealue Lake!!!”

The elders’ group, which is based in Iskut just south of Dease Lake, has staged several protests in the area in recent years blocking resource companies from working in a place known as the Sacred Headwaters. The region is highly valued by the Tahltan because it holds the headwaters of three important salmon rivers – the Stikine, Skeena and Nass.

Rhoda Quock, a spokeswoman for the Klabono Keepers, said Tuesday a group of protesters hiked to the remote drill site and took it over.

She said Black Hawk Drilling Ltd., a Smithers, B.C., company that works for Firesteel Resources Inc. of Vancouver and OZ Minerals of Australia, flew its drilling crew out after the occupation began. Read the rest of this entry »

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10th September 2014

First Nations leadership complain of inadequate Ring of Fire consultation from province – by Matt Vis (tbnewswatch.com – September 10, 2014)


Neskantaga First Nation, Ont. — Another First Nation close to the Ring of Fire is calling out the Ontario government for their handling of the newly created development corporation.

Neskantaga First Nation chief Peter Moonias last week sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle and Minister of Natural Resources Bill Mauro, expressing disappointment with inadequate consultation from the province.

“It didn’t happen in this case,” Moonias said in a telephone interview Tuesday, saying he was not contacted until shortly before the announcement.

“It’s not that I don’t support (the development corporation). It’s just the way it was done. The framework agreement was signed by the chiefs and the province of Ontario to work together to develop the Ring of Fire together with decisions being made by the province and First Nations communities.”

The province in late August officially created the development corporation, a non-profit organization first announced late last year that is intended to bridge together First Nations, industry and senior levels of government to propel Ring of Fire development.

It became a pillar of the Liberal government’s Ring of Fire development strategy in the spring election, with Wynne vowing to establish it within 60 days of taking office. Read the rest of this entry »

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10th September 2014

Making sure First Nations gain from resource development – by Brian Davey (Onotassiniik Magazine – Fall 2014)


Brian Davey is the Executive Director of the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund

Much has been said about the Ring of Fire, impact and benefit agreements, new mines coming online, new infrastructure and employment opportunities. Many First Nation communities are probably wondering how we will actually benefit, or more importantly, how do we make sure we benefit? The last thing we want is a repeat of years gone by where First Nations received little or no benefit in terms of the business and employment opportunities stemming from resource development.

The first thing First Nation leaders must decide is whether we accept the outside government’s decision-making process on mines and related infrastructure, including whether the project is environmentally sound or has the approval to proceed. If the answer is ‘no,’ we should not engage in any form of participation that could be interpreted as consultation. If we do accept the framework that includes the government’s environmental assessment process and its right to permit, subject to our meaningful consultation or consent, then we are also telling our people that we are ready to negotiate with the developer in good faith to develop the traditional lands on behalf of our people.

For some, this may mean we are parking the sovereignty issue and our understanding of the Treaty. This may not be acceptable for some Treaty people, while others will be unwilling to risk the potential of losing opportunities that could lead to better living conditions. After all, the intent of the Treaty is to take care of our well-being for the benefit of our people.

Whatever we decide as a people, one thing is certain: resource development is not going away. There will be tremendous pressure on the community if a project has a valid business case, where governments, including First Nations, stand to make millions or billions of dollars over the long term. Read the rest of this entry »

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