Discord over NW Ont. mine was avoidable, lawyer says
Posted: May 16, 2012 4:50 PM ET
Last Updated: May 17, 2012 9:39 AM ET
An American company planning to invest $3.3 billion on a Northern Ontario mine and processing plant has waded into the latest front in a countrywide battle over environmental issues and aboriginal rights, a mining consultant says.
Lawyer and mining industry strategist Bill Gallagher said Ontario should have foreseen the confrontation brewing over land use in the province's mineral-rich Ring of Fire region in the James Bay Lowlands.Bill Gallagher says Ontario 'systematically plays it wrong' on aboriginal issues. (billgallaher.ca)
The province announced last week that it 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, a road there and a processing facility near Sudbury.
But lawyers for the Neskantaga First Nation say the province may have broken the law by signing deals with Cliffs before consulting First Nations. In a letter written last week, solicitor Gregory McDade exhorts the province to "take no further steps to support this project until full discussion has been held with northern First Nations."
Neskantaga Chief Peter Moonias added that without thorough consultation on environmental and other issues, Cliffs would have to "kill me first" before accessing its mine site.
'Not going to happen in a hurry'
Gallagher said the looming conflict will be one of the first testing grounds for the federal government's contentious new streamlined environmental assessment process, which it announced in its budget in late March.
"Cliffs may have picked the wrong time," he said, because the development in the Ring of Fire is in all likelihood "not going to happen in a hurry."
He added that Ontario lags behind other provinces when it comes to recognizing native treaty rights. "Ontario just hasn't brought themselves into the modern-day approach in pushing forward without having their ducks lined up, simple as that."
The province "systematically plays it wrong" on aboriginal issues and has had "no real commitment with Northern First Nations," Gallagher said, speculating that the odds against Ontario winning a court case against First Nations over the Ring of Fire are 10 to 1.
Mining Watch Canada program coordinator Ramsey Hart agreed that the province is getting it all wrong, saying he understands the frustration when First Nations learn that the province has already made development deals and only then declares it wants to start talks.
"[It's like,] 'There's a major thing happening and we've pretty much decided where we're going with it, but we really want to listen to you and we really want to involve you in the decision-making process," Hart said.
Cliffs plans to start mining chromite, an ingredient in stainless steel, in the Ring of Fire area by the end of 2015. The Ring of Fire includes the largest chromite deposit ever discovered in North America.With files from The Canadian Press
Latest Thunder Bay News Headlines
- Elevator workers picket courthouse construction
- Picketing elevator maintenance workers greeted crews heading in to work at the new courthouse in Thunder Bay on Friday morning. more »
- Drones could help fight forest fires
- Unmanned planes could soon be helping fight forest fires in the northwest if a Lakehead University professor's research pans out. more »
- Stranded campers get out of park on temporary road
- Campers and staff at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park made it out of the park last night. more »
- First Nations hit hard by 'suicide contagion'
- A Sudbury clinical psychologist says young people are more likely to consider suicide if they know of someone their age who has taken their own life. more »
Top News Headlines
- Royal Bank pledges not to outsource jobs for cash savings
- Royal Bank has promised it will never outsource a Canadian job to a foreign worker solely to save money. more »
- Washington police blame bridge collapse on Alberta trucker
- Washington State police say an Alberta trucker was responsible for hitting a steel beam precipitating a bridge collapse on one of the busiest routes in the American northwest. more »
- Man accused of killing child in patio crash granted bail
- Emotions ran high in a packed Edmonton courthouse Friday as Richard Suter, accused of causing a crash into a restaurant patio that killed a young boy, was granted bail. more »
- Senators' unlikely playoff run ends in Game 5 disappointment
- The Ottawa Senators can't hang their heads after a 6-2 loss in Game 5 ended their improbable run to the second round of the NHL playoffs, but questions abound whether their 40-year-old captain will hang up his skates. more »