A spokesperson with Mining Watch Canada says the environmental assessment underway for the biggest project in the Ring of Fire will shut many people out. He’s alarmed that public hearings are not being held for Cliffs Natural Resources proposed chromite mine north of Thunder Bay.

  • Official description of the project from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website:
  • The proposed project consists of constructing, operating and eventually decommissioning an open pit/underground chromite ore mine (30 year mine life at predicted extraction rate of 6,000 to 12,000 tonnes/day) and ore processing facility. The proposal includes an integrated transportation system consisting of a new north-south all-season road corridor and a new ferrochrome production facility, which would be located at a different location than the mine site.
  • The project mine site is located approximately 540 km north of  Thunder Bay, Ont. and 240 km west of James Bay in an area known as the Ring of Fire.
  • This mine is just one of several planned in the Ring of Fire.

"[It’s] largely a paper process of submitting written comments, reviewing documents and providing written feedback back and forth," said Ramsey Hart, Mining Watch’s program co-ordinator.

He said he can't understand why the government wouldn't call public hearings into such a massive project — as it has for a new mine near Marathon.

Cliffs' project includes the construction and operation of a chromite mine, an all-season road south from the mine to the rail line near Nakina and a smelter, which could be located near Sudbury.

Celine Legault, a communications advisor with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency said the project requires federal permits for its potential impact on fish and navigable waterways. This automatically triggered a federal environmental assessment.

The first of three public comment periods begins on Oct. 17, with the government accepting written input.

But Hart says public hearings should be required for a development of this scale, particularly because it affects so many First Nations.

"Elders and traditional people … may not be comfortable with reading hundreds of pages of documents and then sort of filing technical submissions," he said.

Legault said it's up to the Minister of the Environment to decide whether public hearings are necessary. She says Peter Kent could call those hearings any time during the year-long assessment period.