[Ring of Fire] Push on for ramped-up mine site review – by Carl Clutchey (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – November 4, 2011)

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

A group of nine First Nations calling for an enhanced environmental review of Cliffs Natural Resources’ proposed chromite mine project is mulling its options in the wake of what appears to be a mute response from the federal government.

“The chiefs are going to be meeting to work on a strategy,” Matawa First Nations spokesman Jason Rasevych said Thursday from the group’s Thunder Bay office.

On Oct. 21, Matawa gave the government a week to respond to its demand for the appointment of an independent review panel into Cliffs’ project in the Ring of Fire, about 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. Matawa hasn’t said what it will do if its demand isn’t met, but there has been speculation about the issuing of eviction notices and action in the courts.

On Thursday, the chiefs flew to Ottawa to support a similar demand from the seven First Nations that comprise the Mushkegowuk group of remote reserves located to the east of the Ring of Fire belt.

Both Matawa and Mushkegowuk argue that Cliffs’ project qualifies for a panel review because it has the potential to cause significant damage to the environment and constitute infringement on Aboriginal and treaty rights.

The Ring of Fire “is in the heart of the boreal forest and the largest collection of intact wetlands in the world,” the groups say.

The Municipality of Greenstone is formally backing Matawa’s call for a panel review.

Both Cliffs – which wants to be in production by 2015 — and the federal government maintain that the “comprehensive” review approach started last month can provide a thorough review of the company’s plans without the need for a panel.

Even though the comprehensive process has begun, Environment Minister Peter Kent can appoint an independent review panel at any time.