Ring of Fire gets green light from Ontario and First Nations

Government of Ontario
August 21, 2017
By Government of Ontario
August 21, 2017 - Ontario is taking an important next step toward developing the Ring of Fire, working with Webequie, Marten Falls and Nibinamik First Nations to plan and construct a year-round access road into the proposed mining development site being pursued by Noront Resources Ltd. As part of this project, the province is also working with First Nations to build all-season access roads to their communities.

Premier Kathleen Wynne was in Thunder Bay today with the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle, to announce that Ontario will support First Nations to plan and construct an east-west road connecting the Webequie and Nibinamik communities to the provincial highway network north of Pickle Lake. This project would provide all-season access to both First Nations communities as well as into the Ring of Fire development.

“I am grateful to the Matawa First Nations, who have been working with us for years to get to this historic day,” said Wynne. “The entire Ring of Fire region has huge potential for development that would benefit all of the communities involved and the entire province — creating new jobs and improving the quality of life for people in the North. Getting shovels in the ground to build this connection to the Ring of Fire will move us forward towards unlocking its full potential.”

The mineral deposits in the Ring of Fire have an estimated value of $60 billion. Exploration discoveries to date include high-grade chromite, high-grade nickel, copper, zinc, gold, platinum group metals and vanadium. Chromite is an essential ingredient in the production of stainless steel.

“Webequie First Nation is collaborating with Nibinamik First Nation through an existing bilateral agreement with a goal of addressing our infrastructure needs that will benefit our people and the region,” said Chief Cornelius Wabasse of Webequie First Nation. “As proponents, this will allow us to engage with our people and serve them more effectively including respecting other First Nations. The initiative will further define the routing for a multi-purpose corridor which will accommodate infrastructure projects such as roads, transmission lines and broadband. Our Land Stewardship and environment protection will be a priority for the people of Webequie First Nation, as it is our inherent right stemming from our three tier land base model to implement benefit relationship agreements with both levels of government. The success of the related project development in the Ring of Fire is dependent on the immediate implementation of the statement of joint commitments developed with the province to work with the community on various jurisdictional matters.”

The province is also supporting Marten Falls First Nation to plan and construct an access road connecting the community to the existing provincial highway network at Aroland/Nakina.

“We have been working towards development of the region with Ontario for a few years and are glad to finally have an agreement to connect to the provincial highway. As the historical occupants of the Ring of Fire, we believe that mining development must be both environmentally and economically sustainable, and we want to develop infrastructure that enables a multi-generational chromite opportunity,” said Chief Bruce Achneepineskum of Marten Falls First Nation. “Today's announcement is a new beginning and we will continue to work with Ontario on the commitment to undertake further study toward developing our vision of a North-South industrial corridor that transverses a majority of Marten Falls territory as part of the long term development of the Ring of Fire. This is a very significant opportunity for Marten Falls, the North-South region and for the province. We must make the most of it.”

Communities are working to begin environmental assessments of these projects by January 2018 and plan to begin construction in 2019, pending all necessary approvals.

As a next phase, Ontario will continue to support Marten Falls to undertake further technical and environmental studies that could inform planning and development of a north-south access road tied to the development of, and business case for, chromite mining in the Ring of Fire.

Building these roads is a critical step in realizing the economic benefits of one of the biggest mineral-development opportunities in Ontario in almost a century. Funding for these roads is part of the government's commitment to invest $1 billion in Ring of Fire infrastructure to create jobs, provide long-term benefits and improve quality of life for people in the region.

Ontario is working to support these First Nations as they address all regulatory requirements so that this unique environment is protected.

The province welcomes this merging of cultural considerations with regulatory requirements and will ensure First Nations and their perspectives, including traditional knowledge, are carefully considered in decision-making. 

Investing in the development of the Ring of Fire while ensuring that First Nations participate in and benefit from this development is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Since 2011, Ontario has contributed more than $111 million to help communities and tribal councils prepare for Ring of Fire development opportunities, including skills development, capacity building, community well-being studies, community-based training programs and economic development funding.

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