Ring of Fire development possible with proper First Nations consultation, says grand council chief
Ford government throne speech highlighted critical minerals strategy as key part of economy
To develop the Ring of Fire and build more mines to extract critical minerals the Ontario government will need to consult with First Nations the "right way," said the grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation.
"I think they can do it in the right way, and I think it can be done faster," said Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe.
"They have a plethora of information on how they can do that in accordance with engaging First Nations and getting First Nations approval. But the first step is being able to do that. First Nations have their own way of seeking approval from their community."
The Anishinabek Nation advocates for 39 member First Nations across Ontario.
The Ring of Fire deposits are rich in metals like cobalt, nickel, chromite and copper, which have taken on greater importance with growing demand for the large batteries that power electric vehicles.
At the end of the day, we can do better than taking 15 years to get a mine built.- Ontario Mines Minister George Pirie
Ontario Premier Doug Ford's throne speech on Tuesday described the Ring of Fire and the critical minerals found in that region as future cornerstones of the province's economy.
"Recognizing the unprecedented potential, the province has released its critical minerals strategy, a five-year blueprint to better connect mines and minerals in the north with the manufacturing might in the south, including Ontario's growing electric vehicle and battery manufacturing capacity," said Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, who delivered the speech.
"The Ring of Fire is one of the most promising mineral development opportunities in the world and represents a transformative opportunity for multi-generational development," Dowdeswell added.
In an interview with CBC News, George Pirie, Ontario's new minister of mines, said he has already met with the major mining companies in the province and some First Nations leaders to move forward with his government's critical minerals strategy.
"At the end of the day, we can do better than taking 15 years to get a mine built," said Pirie, a former mining executive who is also the MPP for Timmins.
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Pirie said the province is in ongoing consultations with Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation to build roads to the Ring of Fire.
"There are three different roads that are being developed on the way through the Ring of Fire, and the federal government has agreed to that," he said.
"So it's been a very, very busy but rewarding experience so far."
With files from Martha Dillman