Firm [Cliffs Natural Resources] defends environmental review process – by Bryan Meadows (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – October 15, 2011)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

While First Nation leaders and environmentalists continue to have concerns about the approved environmental assessment process for Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.’s Chromite Project, the company maintains that the EA will mean a thorough review of all components of the project.

Some Matawa First Nations chiefs are upset about the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s (CEAA) decision to side with industry by choosing a Comprehensive Study Environmental Assessment (EA) process, instead of a Joint Review Panel EA.

“I don’t understand how the CEAA can make this kind of choice,” Chief Sonny Gagnon of the Aroland First Nation, said in a news release.

“The area being affected is among one of the largest groups of intact wetlands in the world. These Ring of Fire developments are going to impact everyone in the region, one way or another, but especially the First Nations near these developments.

“These are First Nation homelands and we need the best EA process out there to protect them,” he said, adding that “a much smaller project near Marathon was bumped up to a Joint Panel Review EA process. Matawa First Nations would like the same for these larger projects in their region.”

Neskantaga First Nation Chief Peter Moonias noted that “the Joint Review Panel EA is the most extensive and inclusive assessment required by government before approval of a project. It will give more time for community input and public hearings.”

The CEAA has announced the formal start of the EA process for the Cliffs Chromite Project by notifying First Nations last week that it plans to use the Comprehensive EA process. It will also make a decision about Noront Resources’ Eagle’s Nest Project in early November.

MiningWatch Canada, Ecojustice, Wildlands League, and the Wildlife Conservation Society have also said that a Joint Review Panel is the most appropriate EA for these projects.

The projects include developing mining and infrastructure components such as roads, electrical transmission and telecommunication lines in the James Bay Lowlands. The developments are located near the Matawa communities of Webequie, Marten Falls and Neskantaga First Nations.

In a project report, Cliffs Ferroalloys president William Boor states that the EA will be a thorough and meaningful review of all components of the project.

“It will continue to include extensive discussions and consultation with all levels of government and communities, particularly the First Nations communities where the project is located,” he said.
In keeping with its core values, Cliffs says the company will ensure the project is developed in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. The extensive EA studies will help us to meet these goals, while also addressing the views of those who could be affected by the project, the company said.
The company also said that it recognizes the value in working closely with First Nation members, whose knowledge of the land and environment is immense. Cliffs also recognizes First Nations’ unique connection to the land, and possession of traditional ecological knowledge.

“We hope to gain the trust and respect of community members by encouraging them to take a meaningful role throughout the environmental assessment,” the company said.

Meanwhile, Noront says that the company is committed to responsible development.

“The company is engaging local First Nations communities and forging strong relationships with all levels of government,” a news release states.

“The company will be consulting with all stakeholders through the development of its projects in order to minimize its environmental impact and to maximize the benefits of development to local communities and all Ontarians. We intend to be leaders in terms of engagement, inclusion and corporate responsibility,” the company says.