The Chief of Aroland First Nation says Cliffs Natural Resources is misleading its investors about the discussions surrounding its chromite property in the Ring of Fire, located in the James Bay lowlands.
Sonny Gagnon said Cliffs is telling people it is having good discussions with First Nations — and that the environmental assessment (EA) process is moving along.
"Very good discussions with the external stakeholders, and with the First Nations and with the governments and the environmental impact study is moving along," Cliffs CEO Joseph Carrabba said on a first quarter earnings conference call, April 26.
Gagnon says that's inaccurate.
"I told [the CEO] ‘where did you get your information from? The EA process, we're not happy with it’," Gagnon said after he and other chiefs met with Carrabba earlier this week.
"‘You’re not discussing nothing with the First Nations, so what are you talking about?’"
Gagnon said the CEO offered to retract his statements, but Gagnon said it's too late and the information is already out there.
Preparing for disappointment
The chief, whose First Nation community is located near Greenstone, Ont., said he's preparing to be disappointed.
Gagnon said he believes Cliffs and the provincial government have struck a backroom deal to locate a chromite smelter for the Ring of Fire in Sudbury.
After a meeting with the company this week in Thunder Bay, Gagnon also said the CEO of the American company wouldn't commit to another meeting with area First Nations.
"If they don't come back, we're just going to tell them ‘have a good life where you are," Gagnon said. "The ore will be sitting there. It's not going to rot, it's not going to decay. It'll still be sitting there.’"
Cliffs has said it expects to make the announcement about the smelter location in a matter of days.
So far, Cliffs has used Sudbury as its base case for an environmental assessment.
Cliffs plans to start mining chromite in the Ring of Fire area by the end of 2013.
The mine is expected to produce for 30 years.