Ontario, First Nations ink RoF regional framework agreement – by Henry Lazenby (MiningWeekly.com – March 26, 2014)

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TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – The province of Ontario and Matawa-member First Nations on Wednesday took an important step to move development of the province’s vast northernmost mineral wealth forward, by reaching a landmark regional framework agreement that will ensure First Nation communities benefit from the proposed Ring of Fire (RoF) mining camp.

The agreement is a first step in a historic, community-based negotiation process, which began in July last year at the request of nine Matawa-member First Nations.

“This regional framework agreement is a landmark achievement in community and regional discussions. I am proud that our collaborative work with Matawa-member First Nations continues to progress.

“Together, we are moving forward on realising the RoF’s potential and making important advancements on regional, environmental and economic developments,” Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said.

Guided by the newly inked framework agreement, the negotiation process could now move forward on a community-based regional approach to development in the RoF.

“Improving the quality of life and creating lasting economic benefits for First Nations communities is a priority for this government. This regional framework is a historic agreement that demonstrates how respectful dialogue, negotiation and collaboration can move economic development projects forward, creating benefits for everyone involved,” provincial Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer said.

The agreement aims to ensure that First Nations and Ontario can work together to advance RoF opportunities, including regional long-term environmental monitoring and enhanced participation in environmental assessment processes, resource revenue sharing, economic supports, and regional and community infrastructure.

The Ontario provincial government last month announced that it had appointed professional services firm Deloitte to help establish the development corporation that would be responsible for coordinating infrastructure in the mineral-rich RoF region in the forbidding northern reaches of the province.

In an attempt to kick-start the development corporation – which was established last year to bring together private and public partners, including key mining companies, First Nations, and the provincial and federal governments to drive infrastructure in the remote region forward – Deloitte would act as a neutral, third-party resource for key partners, including First Nations, the provincial and federal governments and industry.

In July last year, Ontario appointed former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci as the lead negotiator on behalf of Ontario to participate in discussions with the Matawa-member First Nations communities on proposed resource development in the RoF.

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The RoF, in the McFaulds Lake area of the James Bay Lowlands – about 540 km north-east of Thunder Bay, has attracted much attention over the past couple of years, with exploration drills turning for minerals, including chrome, nickel, copper and platinum-group metals.

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