Minister asked to deny permits for road to Ring-of-Fire mine project
Ontario's Minister of Natural Resource is the latest cabinet minister to be put on notice by the Neskantaga First Nation over plans to develop in the mineral-rich Ring of Fire region in the James Bay Lowlands.
Chief Peter Moonias has sent a letter to the Minister Michael Gravelle asking for assurances he won't issue permits for work on the road to a proposed mine.
"You cannot lawfully consider these [permit] applications without fulfilling your constitutional duty of consultation," Moonias wrote in letter dated May 17.
The province announced last week it had reached an agreement in principle with Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources to build a chromite mine in the area about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, as well as a road there and a smelter near Sudbury.
Chief Moonias said Friday he was inspired to act by colourfull drawings of fish and teepees he was given by Neskatanga children.
He said that's what the children in his community drew when they were asked what was important to them.
"They drew all kinds of stuff there about the land. That tells me something. I almost cried when I was presented those things because these are five-year-olds.
Moonias said community members will be active on the Attawapiskat River this summer, ensuring Cliffs Natural Resources stays out. Neskantaga is located at the headwaters of the river.
Moonias said he's concerned the mine will poison the water and kill the fish in the river. He said a more thorough environmental assessment of the project is required. Right now the project is subject to a paper-based federal review.
Meanwhile, the chief Thunder Bay Region's Aroland First Nation is planning his own resistance.
Sonny Gagnon said Friday mining trucks and surveyors will be turned back from their route through his community.
"It's not a road block it's just showing that if the government gives these guys the permits to work in my back yard, then we'll step it up a notch," Gagnon said.
He too, is seeking dialogue with the government and the company before Cliffs' project goes ahead.