first nations ring of fire
Mining giant Cliffs Natural Resources' decision to halt work on the largest project in northern Ontario's Ring of Fire region has aroused a sudden interest in the lumbering development. The opposition at Queen's Park pounced to lay blame on the province for the squandered opportunity. While no one denies that Cliffs' move is a game changer, the looming question is whether it's a game ender. Fault will inevitably be assigned: was it that First Nations were "anti-development"? Was the province too slow or too unorganized to act? Or did the miner misjudge how quickly they could put a shovel in the ground? Any attempt to analyze what went wrong, and whether it can be put right, must go far beyond those surface level questions.
Since joining Northern Superior Resources in 2002 as President and CEO, I have applied my strong belief that First Nations must be meaningfully consulted and actively engaged in exploration programs. To respect the traditional land uses of these communities is absolutely essential. At the same time, it is also very important for First Nation communities to understand what exploration is all about and the limitations of a junior mining company.
With multi-billion dollar projects adrift in the James Bay lowlands, really, is this how Ontarians want to see their future resources managed? With this outcome, the Ring of Fire now heads into the deep-freeze -- the last five years squandered -- the next five years now left to litigation lawyers to advance private interests.