Friday 13th December 2019

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Ontario plans direct talks with first nations on Ring of Fire

by Greg Klein | August 27, 2019

Coming well over a year after Doug Ford vowed to drive a bulldozer himself if necessary to start Ring of Fire development, the announcement sounded anti-climactic. But before getting machinery on the ground you need signatures on paper, implied Greg Rickford. Speaking in Sault Ste. Marie on August 27, Ontario’s mines and indigenous affairs minister promised “a new, pragmatic approach to unlocking the Ring of Fire’s potential, one that includes working directly with First Nation partners who want to move at the speed of business, to ensure sustainable development.”

Ontario plans direct First Nations negotiations on Ring of Fire

As other companies left the region in frustration,
Noront Resources expanded its Ring of Fire portfolio.

His official announcement lacked details but Rickford did tell local media he hopes native bands will sign agreements on a north-south road this fall, the Sault Star reported. One community enthusiastic about the proposal was Marten Falls. In a joint statement with Noront Resources TSXV:NOT, the first nation called the proposal “an unprecedented opportunity to transform our socio-economic future. The youth of Marten Falls look toward the Ring of Fire as a generational opportunity that can provide training, employment, business prospects, new revenue for social services and many other opportunities—direct and indirect—for the province. Without the Ring of Fire, economic prosperity for our communities will remain a pipe dream.”

With support from Noront, Marten Falls currently has its own environmental assessment underway for a potential road connecting with the highway about 280 kilometres south. Marten Falls’ ancestral territories cover most of the region’s known deposits, Republic of Mining editor Stan Sudol has pointed out. But other parts of the region sit on land traditionally used by the Webequie and Attawapiskat first nations.

In a thorough analysis published during the Ontario election, Sudol noted that the proposed road could impact a number of small communities: Webequie (with an on-reserve population of 850 people), Nibinamik (400), Neskantaga (250) and Eabametoong (1,500), as well as Marten Falls (400). 

Marten Falls and Noront pledged that they “will continue to engage the additional First Nations communities that are committed to developing the Ring of Fire and its associated infrastructure.”

Noront holds about 85% of the region’s claims, including seven deposits with resource estimates. One of three advanced-stage projects is Eagle’s Nest, described as among the world’s largest undeveloped high-grade nickel sulphide deposits and subject of a 2012 feasibility study.

Rickford called the Ring of Fire “one of the most promising mineral development opportunities in over a century with the potential to sustain up to 5,500 jobs annually across Ontario within the first 10 years of development.”

Read Stan Sudol’s commentary on the Ring of Fire and northern Ontario.

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