Give Sudbury [Ring of Fire] smelter, redefine Crown land – by Reino L. Viitala (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – April 30, 2012)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario. This commentary came from the Chronicle-Journal’s Letters to the Editor section.

Mining guidelines for Northwestern Ontario should include important conditions for development of environmentally sensitive areas — not simply the ambitions of companies, politicians and native leaders.

 For example, why do we want a smelter and slag dump in the Ring of Fire project area? Worst possible choice. It would pollute the entire Northwestern region. Our rainfall is associated with the Hudson Bay moisture system, therefore any air-borne pollutants will affect our rainfall and further acidify it. We are the cleanest climactic region in Ontario and a jewel for the entire world to enjoy. Why risk this with a smelter and a slag dump?

 Secondly, open-pit mining will drain wetlands in that area. Only underground mining should be permitted. Otherwise, the sensitive hydrological balance between the Hudson Bay Lowlands and the Lake Nipigon Basin will be affected. The Ring of Fire mining companies are on the right track to ship the ores to Falconbridge for smelting.

 Sudbury area has over 100 years of experience in smelting ores and with some modifications to existing facilities can handle these ores much more efficiently. The jobs in the North will be created by the mining process itself. A new smelter here will only delay and add cost to the project. Recent comments by our politicians and numerous native leaders are clearly not in our environmental best interest. Let’s not be so greedy as to destroy our precious ecosystems beyond repair.

 Finally, let’s work on a new definition for what is Crown land. In the Mining Act, Crown land is defined as the “Right of Ontario,” which means every resident of Ontario has a right to those lands under current laws governing their use — uses include, tourism, fishing and hunting, forestry, mining, etc.

 In the mining case, before a mining claim is staked, the area of interest is checked in the mining recorder’s office to be open for staking as Crown land. After staking it’s again confirmed and recorded in the same office. Then assessment work can begin under required permits and conditions to characterize the discovery and its potential.

 This all goes wrong when other groups are allowed to come along and say it’s our land! It is still Crown land, not a line in the sand or anything else. Now, it appears we need a new definition.

Reino L. Viitala
Thunder Bay

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