Ring of Fire development could move quickly: Kaszycki – by Chris Kornaki (Special to Wawatay News – March 3, 2011)

Wawatay News is Northern Ontario’s First Nation Voice with offices in Sioux Lookout, Timmins and Thunder Bay. This article was posted on their website on March 3, 2011. James Thom is the Editor – jamest@wawatay.on.ca

For an extensive list of articles on this mineral discovery, please go to: Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mineral Discovery

Christine Kaszycki is determined to work with First Nations to make sure no one is left out in the cold around the Ring of Fire. Kaszycki, assistant deputy minister for the Ring of Fire Secretariat with the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry (MNDMF), promised to balance the needs of industry and First Nations if a mine is in production by 2015.

Her job includes “working with the First Nation communities to ensure they have got the capacity they need to meaningfully participate and to ensure they have the right kinds of supports in place to actually engage as this project moves forward,” Kaszycki said.

She said MNDMF is listening to the communities about what they want and need from development to put the right kinds of programs and frameworks in place to allow it to happen. The province recognized the Ring of Fire – located in the traditional lands of Webequie and Marten Falls – as one of the most significant recent discoveries of minerals in the world.

Speaking at the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Economic Summit Feb. 24, Kaszycki said the Ring of Fire is comparable to nickel and copper in Sudbury and the rich ore bodies in Timmins more than a century ago. Both went into production long before the days of impact benefit agreements and resource benefit sharing.

“It is important to be mindful that different communities have different needs and are at different stages in terms of their development,” Kaszycki said. “We need to be sensitive to individual community needs as well.”

But Kaszycki understands for the Ring of Fire development to proceed, dialogue and consultation with the First Nations will be necessary.

“We are currently engaged with both the Matawa Tribal Council communities and the Ring of Fire coordinator from Matawa,” Kaszycki said.

She said the ministry started discussions around initiatives to benefit First Nations and aid in training and job preparedness.

These include the Northern Training Partnership Fund launched in Thunder Bay July 22. It is a three-year $45 million project to train First Nations people to fill high paying jobs during development, construction and production of a mine.

“Clearly there is an expectation for significant partnership and participation in the process and we would agree with that,” Kaszycki said.

“We will continue to foster those relationships and understand how we can best work together to achieve our mutual objectives.”

Kaszycki was receptive to the idea of creating a protocol for consultation with the First Nations, those directly affected like Webequie and Marten Falls, and others like Fort Albany and Attawapiskat which fall downstream from the Ring of Fire areas which could also be negatively affected by possible changes to the land and water system caused by the mine development.

“Having a common understanding of what the expectation is with respect to what consultation is and working with communities will be helpful and that is certainly something we would be interested in talking to the communities about,” Kaszycki said. “It has to be respectful of the individual community’s processes and needs. We will be mindful of that as well.”

Kaszycki said the Ring of Fire development is “still at the exploration stage.”

“We haven’t even completed pre-feasibility yet. So there is time to ensure we have the right kinds of supports in place and to work with the communities.”

Kaszycki said when production begins on the first major mine within the Ring of Fire, it will likely set off a sequence of development.

“Once the exploration proceeds beyond the nickel and chromite, there could be significant opportunities for other commodities in the region,” Kaszycki said.

These include diamonds, copper, platinum, gold and zinc.

“I think it is fair to say the infrastructure developments that will happen within the region will help unlock the longer-term developments in the region,” Kaszycki said.

If the first mine is built within five years, as the province expects it could be, more developments could quickly follow suit, she said.

Currently, both Cliffs Resources and Noront are driving toward a production timeline of 2015-16, for their respective mines.

For that to happen, all the permits and environmental assessments will need to be processed and moved forward seamlessly.

Kaszycki did not provide a timeline for negotiations of resource revenue sharing or impact benefit agreements with affected First Nations during her presentation.

The permitting process would need to be complete by 2013 to allow for two years of construction through 2015.

“We are working towards the objectives the companies have,” Kaszycki said.