About 300 people flocked to the Valhalla Inn last night to meet Cliffs Natural Resources staff and learn about the company's proposed Ring of Fire chromite mining project.
The proposed mine site is about 540 km north of Thunder Bay in the James Bay lowlands.
The American company plans to remove up to 12 thousand tonnes of ore every day, for 30 years. The project also includes a road to the mine site, crossing more than 100 bodies of water, and a ferrochrome processing facility.
Margaret Kenequanash, the executive director of Shibogama First Nations Council representing communities in the same watershed as the proposed mine, said they want direct consultation with Cliffs.
"Our communities still live in the territory," she said. "And they will have a say in what goes on in their homeland."
Lobbying for a processing plant
Thunder Bay and Greenstone are sending separate delegations to Cliffs Natural Resources’ head office in Cleveland, Ohio.
A seven-member lobby group from Thunder Bay and the Fort William First Nation was to leave for the U.S. on Tuesday.
The two communities have formed an alliance to bid for a ferrochrome processor for ore from the Ring of Fire, and they plan to make their case tomorrow morning.
A delegation from Greenstone will present its case for a processor at a separate meeting, later tomorrow.
A senior manager with Cliffs said consulting with First Nations is an integral part of the planning process and added company representatives will be going out to the affected communities to meet in person.
People's concerns will be heard: Cliffs
Dave Cartella, Cliffs' general manager of environmental affairs, said he wants to reassure people their concerns will be heard.
"You know we think we have all the answers, but we need feedback from the community."
Cartella said this open house is only the beginning.
For Kenequanash, it’s important that Cliffs follows through on consultations in First Nation communities.
"We have to be careful in what we allow ... development-wise to make sure that there's a balance in protecting the environment,’ she said.
During the open house, people helped themselves to sandwiches while checking out information posters and talking to Cliffs representatives.
Trent Thompson was there because he is looking at job prospects.
"(I’m) just interested in ... the opportunities that are being brought to our city," he said.
Elizabeth Ladouceur said she wants to invest.
"A lot of people have kind of been faltering financially... and this is an opportunity to get your hopes back up," she said.
Cliffs' target date to have the mine and the chromite processing facility is the end of 2013.
A similar open house was set for Tuesday in Sudbury. Cliffs has made that city the host of the ferrochrome smelter in its 'base-case' and its plans filed by Cliffs with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.