Northern Ontario chromite mining has first nation worried for water safety- Heather Socffield (The Canadian Press/Globe and Mail – December 27, 2012)

Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

MARTEN FALLS, ONT. — The Canadian Press – Water has consumed the daily routine of Chief Eli Moonias, and it’s making him visibly agitated. His small, fly-in reserve in Northern Ontario has had a boil-water advisory for seven long years, and there is no end in sight.

Now he feels the long-term quality of the water that surrounds his reserve may well be at risk, too. Mining companies have flooded into the James Bay lowlands, into the area now dubbed the Ring of Fire. They’ve found an enormous expanse of chromite, enough nickel for a mine and other metals that may hold potential in future years.

The mining holds the promise of thousands of jobs over the next decade, if not longer – as long as the proposals can pass environmental muster and garner the support of the region’s first nations. But chromite also poses significant challenges to the environment that can be difficult to manage.

“We know we’re going to get some benefits once they start development. We know that in some ways, we’ll be involved as well. The issue is the environment,” says Mr. Moonias.

He looks at development in the oil sands and hears about the inedible fish and the poisoned Athabaska River. He vows never to let anything like that happen to the Albany and Ogoki rivers that flow through the muskeg and meet at Marten Falls.

“It’s not only fish, it’s the animal kingdom. It’s not only us, it’s everybody. It’s the planet. You can’t jump [with] a careless plunge into development. You have to know what you’re doing to your future.”

It’s no surprise that water is constantly on his mind. It’s also on the mind of the first nations protesters who have taken to the streets in cities across Canada and blocked roads over the last few days in the Idle No More effort.

“The protection of water is a sacred obligation to indigenous people. Without clean water, life will cease to exist. Our obligation to protect water is an overall respect for life itself,” said Chief Isadore Day of the Serpent River First Nation, near Elliot Lake, in an e-mail as he wrapped up a weekend protest that briefly shut down the Trans-Canada Highway.

Protection of water is a large part of what has driven his people into the streets, Mr. Day said. Ottawa’s latest omnibus bill changes the Navigable Waters Act to remove federal oversight from all but a few of Canada’s lakes and rivers – without consulting the people whose health and livelihoods depend on them.

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