Ring of Fire communities get chance to share concerns with federal government

People living near the proposed Ring of Fire in the James Bay lowlands have an opportunity to share concerns about the mining project’s environmental impacts at community discussions this week. 

Marten Falls and Webequie Supply Road projects would be all-season connections to Ring of Fire

The Ring of Fire is a chromite-rich deposit in the James Bay lowlands. (The Canadian Press)

People living near the proposed Ring of Fire in the James Bay lowlands have an opportunity to share concerns about the mining project's environmental impacts at community discussions this week. 

Two access roads to the Ring of Fire area– The Marten Falls Community Access Road and the Webequie Supply Roads projects–  would be all-season connections to the site and nearby First Nations.

While mines are not yet in operation, as part of the federal impact assessment process, community members are invited to comment until January 28.

And the Canadian Environmental Law Association and the Friends of the Attawapiskat River organization want to help people in the region share their concerns.

They held a public discussion in Timmins Thursday, and there are two more planned for Fort Albany on Friday, January 17.

Kerrie Blaise, the northern services counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association, said she's trying to elicit as many comments, and as much feedback as possible in a short period of time.

"We have a very short window," Blaise said. "It's a 40-day comment period and we have until January 28 to provide comment to the Impact Assessment Agency on what they're calling their draft tailored impact statement guidelines."

"So these are the guidelines that will guide the project and how the impact assessment will actually be undertaken and what values they'll look at."

The critical issue so far, Blaise said, is that the impact assessments have had a narrow scope.

"They're ill-designed to actually address the cumulative effect and broader effects with the multiple mines and the roads and other industrial projects that would be part of the Ring of Fire development," she said.

"We're particularly trying to get out to the downstream make sure that they have an equal voice in the decision making process, and at least information so they know that there's this public consultation period is open."

One of those communities downstream is Attawapiskat. 

Mike Koostachin, with the Friends of the Attawapiskat River organization, said his community is concerned with the materials that will be transported from any project. 

"We know what's being mined over there. It's chromite," Koostachin said. "We are worried about the water, what if there's a breakdown transporting the mineral or the resources being extracted?"

Koostachin said he would like to see people come out to the sessions, or even record their thoughts to be considered in the project.

"We have a river that's going to be affected with the proposed mine and we just want to hear what their concerns are," he said. "It has a life of 120 years operational and that's going to be a long time that's going to affect our kids, and grandchildren yet to be born."

According to CELA, , the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada has not yet accepted the invitation to attend the sessions in Attawapiskat or Fort Albany.

In a written statement, the agency said:

"The Agency has identified a number of communities for consultation for two proposed road projects in northern Ontario, the Marten Falls Community Access Road Project and the Webequie Supply Road Project. Both projects are currently undergoing impact assessments under the Impact Assessment Act.

"The Agency has been working directly with the Chief and Council of the two First Nations, Fort Albany and Attawapiskat, throughout the impact assessments of the projects in question.

"The Agency has been working directly with elected leadership, or Chief and Council, who represent the interest of all community members in those communities to schedule meetings, including with sub-populations such as elders, youth and others."


with files Waubgeshig Rice


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