Public hearings lacking for Ring of Fire – CBC News Website (October 12, 2011)

Mining Watch Canada says ‘largely paper process’ shuts out public input

A spokesperson with Mining Watch Canada says the environmental assessment underway for the biggest project in the Ring of Fire will shut many people out. He’s alarmed that public hearings are not being held for Cliffs Natural Resources proposed chromite mine north of Thunder Bay.

“[It’s] largely a paper process of submitting written comments, reviewing documents and providing written feedback back and forth,” said Ramsey Hart, Mining Watch’s program co-ordinator.

He said he can’t understand why the government wouldn’t call public hearings into such a massive project — as it has for a new mine near Marathon.

Cliffs’ project includes the construction and operation of a chromite mine, an all-season road south from the mine to the rail line near Nakina and a smelter, which could be located near Sudbury.

Celine Legault, a communications advisor with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency said the project requires federal permits for its potential impact on fish and navigable waterways. This automatically triggered a federal environmental assessment.

The first of three public comment periods begins on Oct. 17, with the government accepting written input.

But Hart says public hearings should be required for a development of this scale, particularly because it affects so many First Nations.

“Elders and traditional people … may not be comfortable with reading hundreds of pages of documents and then sort of filing technical submissions,” he said.

Legault said it’s up to the Minister of the Environment to decide whether public hearings are necessary. She says Peter Kent could call those hearings any time during the year-long assessment period.