Three northern Ontario First Nations declare moratorium on Ring of Fire development

A map of Ontario's Ring of Fire is seen. (Republic of Mining)

Three northern Ontario First Nations located in the James Bay lowlands have declared a moratorium on the Ring of Fire development until the governments of Canada and Ontario honour the promise of meaningful Indigenous involvement in the regional impact assessment of the project.

In an April 5 news release, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany and Neskantaga First Nations said they "stand to be seriously and permanently desecrated by massive-scale mining in the Ring of Fire."

Ontario's Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines calls the Ring of Fire "one of the most promising mineral development opportunities in Ontario in over a century."

Noront Resources holds the largest claim to the development and plans to first develop its Eagles Nest nickel mine and then chromite mines.

Several northern Ontario communities were vying for the opportunity to host a new ferrochrome smelter and in 2019, Noront chose the City of Sault Ste. Marie as the site where it will eventually build the new $1 billion facility. The smelter can turn chromite into ferrochrome, a key ingredient in stainless steel.

The ministry said, "current estimates suggest a multi-generational potential of chromite production, as well as significant production of nickel, copper and platinum."

In the moratorium dated April 1, the three First Nations are asking for a regional impact assessment that is Indigenous-led and for time to deal with the current crises COVID-19 has caused in their communities.

They state Canada has gone back on its promise of allowing First Nations meaningful involvement at all stages of the assessment and planning.

"Despite Canada knowing of First Nations' intent and agreeing to time to develop this proposal after the pandemic crisis had ended, Canada now informs us it effectively had no intent of paying any attention to any such proposal; and that Canada and Ontario have been collaborating behind First Nations' backs for the last year to agree on the terms of reference for the RIA which they will show us in April "for comment", and in which First Nations have nothing but token involvement," the news release said.

CTV News has reached out to both the governments of Ontario and Canada, as well as Noront Resources, for comment.