On April 14, the mayors of Greenstone, Nipigon, Hearst, and Thunder Bay, Ontario got together in a show of support for development related to the Ring of Fire. They support resource development in the North–but they want their communities to reap the economic benefits.
A Ring of Fire Resolution supporting Exton (between Aroland First nation and Nakina) as the preferred refinery site, and a north-south access route to Marten Falls was signed by six First Nations (Marten Falls FN, Aroland FN, Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinabeek FN, Constance Lake FN, Animiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinabeek FN, and Red Rock Indian Band) and four regional Mayors (Greenstone, Hearst, Nipigon and Thunder Bay). Peter Collins, regional grand chief of the Union of Ontario Indians, Anishinabek Nation Council, and chief of Fort William First Nation participated by teleconference. Chief Collins and other community leaders unable to attend are also expected to sign the Resolution over the next few days.
Chief Elijah Moonias of Marten Falls First Nation, on whose traditional lands the Ring of Fire’s globally significant chromite deposits are located, addressed the gathering held in Greenstone. “The companies want to come in and exploit the resources and leave nothing behind for local long standing benefits such as electric grid connection and roads access, both a boost to the local economy,” said Moonias. “By proposing to use diesel generators at the mine, Cliffs/Noront signal they are not interested in helping with infrastructure development nor will they support the smelter in a new location. To avoid environmental accounting they want to consider any new location.”
“We want infrastructure out of the development,” said Moonias.
For one thing, they want a new powerline. Moonias said there is a company interested in studying this project in partnership with the communities and that the Province should support this initiative over diesel for environmental reason.
The new ferrochrome refinery will need an estimated 300 megawatts of electricity per year—that will make it Ontario’s single most biggest user of electricity.
There was much discussion of the proposal to power the mine site with diesel. It was concluded by proposing to use massive diesel generators at the mine site, developers Cliffs/Noront are showing they are not interested in supporting regional infrastructure development.
The Resolution signed last week also states that the ferrochrome processing facility should be in Greenstone, allowing local economies to benefit from the jobs and the revenues created.
“I believe the mining companies still do not understand that the minerals are located under our land,” said Moonias. “If they wish to mine the ore, we want it processed in our territory. That means Exton, not Sudbury.”
Moonias continued, “What we ask of Cliffs and Noront is to provide the opportunity to study this regional initiative until the final decision on the access corridor, smelter location, and power supply is addressed, and that there is satisfaction from all parties that no alternative exists to what the companies are proposing,”
Chief Sonny Gagnon of Aroland First Nation said, “We will not be treated like a third world country, where a company can walk in, take what it wants and get rich off our resources without giving back. We don’t want to end up with our lands destroyed and that is what is going to happen if we keep going down this road. This Summit today shows that the people in the North are getting together and will force these companies to work with all of us.”
The have the support of adjacent communities such as Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs said on April 12 that the City supports the First Nations efforts to secure benefits from the Ring of Fire.
“Together, we have signed historic Resolutions,” conculded Paul Gladu, chief of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinabeek First Nation. “Together, we will make the federal and provincial governments and the mining companies understand this is our choice.”