RING OF FIRE: Federal Natural Resources minister wants approvals streamlined – by Laura Stricker (Sudbury Star – March 24, 2012)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Changes to speed up the approvals process for major natural resource projects will be introduced in the coming months, the minister of Natural Resources says.

 “I can’t speak to the specific date, but the whole point (is) we want the regulatory process to move more quickly, and so we really have to get on with it ourselves. So we’re talking months, not years,” Joe Oliver said Friday.

 However, he was vague about what exactly those changes will be.  “I can’t talk about the detail as specifics, but we’re going to make sure that there’s an adequate and respectful constitutionally driven consultation process. In other words, we want to have an open dialogue with aboriginal communities.

 “We’re not going to be doing anything that is going to undermine the ability of the regulator to do a thorough environmental review. We don’t want projects to go ahead that aren’t safe for Canadians and safe for the environment.”

 Oliver was scheduled to speak at a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday, but was unable to make it when his flight out of Toronto was cancelled due to a wildcat strike by Air Canada ground workers.

 However, a streamlined approvals process could be beneficial for the Ring of Fire area. The first stage of its environmental assessment, for the Cliffs Natural Resources’ chromite project, began last October.

 The project is of particular interest in Sudbury, since Cliffs may build a smelter near Capreol to process the chromite.

 The Ring of Fire, which is about 500 km northeast of Thunder Bay, is located in First Nations homelands. There are more than 35,000 staked mining claims in the area, which holds chromite and precious minerals. Chromite is processed into ferrochrome, which is used to make stainless steel.

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