Chiefs discuss Ring of Fire privately, choose not to make public statement – by Jeff Labine ( – March 20, 2013)

First Nation chiefs meeting in the city to discuss the Ring of Fire development are not speaking to the media.

Delegates at the annual Matawa First Nations gathering at the Valhalla Inn met with Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle Wednesday. After attempting to speak to officials about the meeting, local media were told that none of the chiefs wished to talk publicly about what was discussed.

Following the meeting, Gravelle said he was glad to sit down and meet the chiefs but wouldn’t go into any specifics of what was discussed.

He did reveal that the meeting focused heavily on the Ring of Fire development. “I do not believe the project with all the economic opportunities that are there and all the potential job creation will move forward unless there’s an opportunity for First Nations to truly benefit from this,” he said.

“We are excited about the Ring of Fire project. It’s a question about doing it right.” Marten Falls First Nation chief Eli Moonias said on Tuesday that he had no confidence in the federal government’s environmental assessment process. He said he was worried that they would face the same environmental problems that Alberta has with the oil sands.

A federal court last week denied motions filed by the federal government and Cliffs Natural Resources to negate evidence presented in a judicial review.

First Nation communities launched the legal action in November 2011 to look into the environmental assessment in the Ring of Fire.

Cliffs intended to have the Ring of Fire project started in a few years. With First Nation communities calling for a halt of the environmental review, Moonias said they’ll have to wait to see how the judicial review plays out.

Gravelle said it’s a project with environmental risks to it so it’s important to get the assessment right as well.

“From an Ontario government perspective, we’re committed to working with First Nations and all the communities involved to make sure the environmental assessment and the environmental monitoring that is done in a fashion that is indeed not just gives them comfort but really provides the level of consultation that they believe is necessary.”