Cliffs says it will include Neskantaga feedback in environmental assessment – by Rick Garrick (Wawatay News – November 1, 2012)

Northern Ontario’s First Nations Voice:

Cliffs Natural Resources is looking to include Neskantaga’s concerns about an important gathering place on the Attawapiskat River in the environmental assessment process for its Ring of Fire chromite mine.

“In terms of Neskantaga’s interest in the river, that is one of many aspects that has to be incorporated into the environmental assessment,” said Jason Aagenes, director of environmental affairs at Cliffs, during an Oct. 24 media briefing prior to a Cliffs open house in Thunder Bay. “We’re looking for feedback and input, not just from Neskantaga but all of the area First Nation communities, into the environmental assessment. The purpose of the environmental assessment is to take into account areas of cultural or archeological sensitivities and make sure that the project will not adversely impact those areas.”

A Lakehead University professor recently confirmed Neskantaga’s concerns about the gathering place after conducting a surface examination at the location where Ring of Fire companies are planning to build a bridge across the Attawapiskat River.

“It is a place of high archeological potential,” said Scott Hamilton, a professor in Lakehead University’s department of anthropology. Hamilton found evidence of occupation at the gathering place, including log tent frames, five gallon barrels cut into stoves, hide stretching racks and a metal pipe that he speculated could be the remnants of a musket dating back to the days of northern Ontario’s fur trade.

Aagenes said mining operations have to be “very cognizant” of water, air, noise, light and dust impacts to the environment.

“The purpose of the environmental assessment is to take into account all of these aspects,” Aagenes said. “We are intending to install state-of-the-art controls at the mine site and the furnace.”

Aagenes detailed a number of the controls, including lined tailing facilities, seepage control on waste rock stockpiles and sealed transportation containers.

“In terms of the mine site component of the EA … what we’ve seen so far is that area is a very clean and pristine environment,” Aagenes said. “It is very water rich and one of the key aspects that has to be addressed in the environmental assessment is keeping that water clean. I’ve previously described some of the controls that we’re anticipating and we’ll continue to look at additional controls to make sure that water remains clean.”

Aagenes said the environmental assessment process is a multi-stage process that looks at the existing environment, including social, biological, physical aspects and First Nations traditional use and knowledge of the land, the anticipated impacts from the project and ways to eliminate, reduce or mitigate negative impacts to acceptable levels.

“We are still in the very early stages of the environmental assessment, but we have been collecting environmental baseline data for a number of years,” Aagenes said, noting that Cliffs received the federal environmental impact statement guideline descriptions last December and is currently looking to finalize the provincial terms of reference. “Concurrent to that, we will be starting the actual environmental assessment in the coming months. With that, we will be submitting a report in the first half of 2013 and we look for approval in mid-2014.”