Matawa [Ring of Fire] demand ‘unfortunate’ – by Carl Clutchey (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – October 24, 2011)

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

Cliffs Natural Resources says it’s committed to “working hand-in-hand” with nine remote First Nations that could benefit from the company’s proposed chromite mine in the Ring of Fire.

But the company said it’s disappointed over last week’s all-or-nothing demand by Matawa First Nations for a higher level environmental review into the mine proposal. “It’s unfortunate that the focus is over the panel (review) versus comprehensive approaches,” Cliffs said in a statement.

“The comprehensive review process provides a clear and thorough path, as well as the flexibility to address the specific concerns of impacted communities,” the statement said.

Matawa is demanding a government-appointed joint review panel — similar to the one underway for a copper and palladium mine near Marathon — because “it allows for more public participation (including) oral hearings to be held in each community.”

Though the federal government has the option of referring Cliffs’ proposal to a joint panel review at any time, it maintains that the comprehensive process started last week can still provide for a “thorough” review.

Cliffs wants to have its chromite mine located 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay to be in production by 2015.

The company’s current plan has the ore being trucked on an all-weather road to Nakina, then railed to a Sudbury-area smelter located on an existing brownfield.

Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci, who was sworn in Thursday as Ontario’s new Northern Development and Mines minister, “is looking forward to being briefed on (the Cliffs proposal) and other issues,” a staffer said in an email.

Bartolucci “understands, supports and respects the province’s duty to consult with our First Nations partners,” the staffer added.