Thunder Bay

Chromite mine talks could 'devolve into conflict'

Ontario's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is asking First Nations near the Ring of Fire to be patient.

First Nations involvment in Ring of Fire project will come after province and First Nations talk, Kathleen Wynne says

Ontario's Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is asking First Nations near the Ring of Fire to be patient.

First Nations leaders are upset Cliffs is locating its chromite smelter — and 450 jobs — in Sudbury, rather than in northwestern Ontario. 

Kathleen Wynne said the mining project will benefit aboriginal communities, but she doesn't have the details.

"Those have not been finalized," she said. "We were not announcing those today because we couldn't. There's no way we could announce those today because we haven't had the conversation with you."

Wynne said she hopes First Nations and the province can sit down and have meaningful discussions, and not end up with a conflict.

One community 'cannot provide the workforce'

Ontario minister of Aboriginal Affairs Kathleen Wynne said Cliffs Natural Resources' decision to locate a chromite smelter in Sudbury was a business one — and not political.

She pointed out that locating the smelter in Sudbury was just the start of many economic spin-offs for northern Ontario.

"One community cannot provide the workforce … for this project," Wynne said.

Locating the smelter in Sudbury was not a political, but rather a business decision, she noted.

Wynne’s comments were not enough reassurance First Nations would have a part in the project, according to Terry Waboose, the Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

"My advice to the chiefs of the area would be to perhaps re-evaluate their support of the project," Waboose said. "Sure, you can have a smelter in Sudbury, but you still have to have a mine up there."

Aroland First Nation Chief Sonny Gagnon has said Sudbury may have been chosen to be home base for Cliffs' smelter, but the chromium still sits in the ground in First Nation's territory.

Gagnon, whose First Nation community is located near Greenstone, Ont., said he believed Cliffs and the provincial government struck a backroom deal to locate a chromite smelter for the Ring of Fire in Sudbury

Waboose said giving jobs to Sudbury puts the Ring of Fire project on the wrong foot and moves it a step backwards.

It’s a direction the Aboriginal Affairs minister doesn’t want to go. She said she hopes aboriginal leaders will sit down with the province to talk about next steps, rather than going down "another road, where we devolve into conflict, where we refuse to engage, where we can't work out a way to have this conversation."