Make native groups partners [in Ring of Fire] – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – March 7, 2013)

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

First Nations are cheering on development of the Ring of Fire, looking to its chromite-rich deposits as a way out of poverty.

But they are calling for — and have a right to expect — “quality consultation” with governments and companies about how First Nations can share in the mineral wealth located in the backyards, says Claude Gravelle.

The Nickel Belt New Democrat MP is hoping a Conservative MP, Treasury Board president Tony Clement, will move discussions with aboriginal people forward in his role as federal lead for the Ring of Fire.

First Nations want to “sit at the same tables” as government and industry, said Gravelle, who attended a morning session on the Ring of Fire on Wednesday at the annual convention of the Prospectors and Developments Association of Canada.

Representatives from First Nations near the ring and companies who will be mining there participated in the session.

There are enough riches in the Ring of Fire, located in the James Bay lowlands, to create economic benefits for all of Canada, said Gravelle, “and it will probably be a life-saver for First Nations.”

At the Wednesday session, First Nations chiefs called for treaties dating back to the late 1800s to be updated, the same way municipalities update their bylaws, said Gravelle.

They also called for more understanding of cultural issues. For instance, elders in many communities near the Ring of Fire don’t speak English and yet documentation from companies they are dealing with has only been provided in the English language.

Even before deals are signed with First Nations and claims are mined, Gravelle and the NDP want the federal government to build facilities to start training aboriginal people for the jobs that will be created in chromite mining.

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