Be transparent: [Ring of Fire] First Nation – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – May 8, 2012)

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

Aroland First Nation in northwestern Ontario wants the government of Ontario to open up about “confidential meetings” its says it has been holding with Cliffs Natural Resources about development of the Ring of Fire chromite deposits.

The 325-member First Nation, about 20 kilometres west of Nakina in Greenstone, has filed a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to disclose information about the meetings.

At the same time, the mayor of Greenstone, Renald Beaulieu, is calling upon Cliffs’ chairman, president and chief executive officer, Joseph Carrabba, to answer several questions left unresolved last week after Carrabba spoke to the Aboriginal Business Council in Thunder Bay.

Beaulieu said he attended that meeting expecting to learn “something about the company’s approach to matters that remain unaddressed” — specifically the location of a smelter that Cliffs will build to process chromite ore from the Ring of Fire.

Cliffs is reportedly close to announcing the location for the $1.8-billion chromite smelter to process ore from the Ring of Fire in northwestern Ontario.

Beaulieu wrote Carrabba on Friday asking if Cliffs had seriously considered other sites “before or since establishing Capreol as the ‘base case’ for the refinery.”

Several communities, including Sudbury, have lobbied hard for the smelter, which is expected to create 400 to 500 jobs.

Last month, The Star reported that Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs said Cliffs’ officials have indicated they are leaning toward locating the smelter in northeastern Ontario, not the northwest.

Aroland is one of the First Nations that will be directly impacted by Cliffs, says Chief Sonny Gagnon.

The decision to file a freedom of information request was made when it “came to light” the Ontario government and Cliffs have been “holding confidential meetings, concealing information and are preparing to make an announcement,” said the chief.

A spokeswoman for Cliffs, Patricia Persico, said the company’s chromite project has garnered tremendous interest from a number of stakeholders, including first nations.

In the last two years, Cliffs has held several meetings with first nations, including Gagnon’s.

Cliffs is working closely with communities so it can enter into agreements that will create opportunities “to enhance their social well-being and economic prospects. We have found that all community leaders are pro-development,” said Persico in an email to The Star.

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