Ontario taxpayers are footing a bill in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for negotiations on the future development of the Ring of Fire region, and one First Nations policy analyst sees it as money poorly spent.
Former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci and former Liberal MP Bob Rae are being paid by the province to work out a mining deal between the province and nine First Nations, closest to the mineral reserves.
But First Nations policy analyst Russell Diabo said that expense could be spared if governments imposed mining rules that respect treaty rights.
"So there are ways to streamline it if the political will is there. But often the economic interests are so great that they want to subjugate First Nations interests and make it complicated where they can," Diabo said
The government hopes to see billions of dollars in investment in the mineral-rich area, investment it hopes will also benefit First Nations in the area.
But Diabo says the negotiators will be the big winners in the deal.
"I think the ones that potentially lose are the First Nations, because the further removed you are from the family level, or the household level, in the communities, the tougher it is to get those issues at the table," he said.
Diabo said First Nations often choose high profile, non-Aboriginal negotiators because governments see them as more credible. But he said better government policy could eliminate the need for the complicated talks.
Ontario's Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle wouldn't give an exact figure, but he told CBC News the budget for the salaries of the two negotiators is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.