First nations oppose Ring of Fire sale – by Staff (Sudbury Star – April 13, 2015)

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

Two first nation communities in the James Bay lowlands are protesting the proposed takeover of Ring of Fire assets by a Toronto-based company. In early March, Noront Resources Inc. announced it plans to buy the chromite assets owned by Cliffs Natural Resources, based out of Cleveland, for $20 million.

The chiefs of Marten Falls and Aroland First Nations, however, are now speaking out against this move, saying it will tread on their rights and prevent them from reaping the economic opportunities to which they are entitled.

“Our first nations have effectively been denied a real opportunity to benefit from key resources in our lands on our terms,” said Chief Sonny Gagnon of Aroland First Nation in a release issued Friday. “This unilateral move by Noront is unacceptable to our first nations.”

Bruce Achneepineskum, interim chief of Marten Falls First Nation, said the deal represents an “old way of thinking” when it comes to development in native lands.

“Progressive mining companies are inclusive, share resources equitably with indigenous peoples, and know that only real partnerships protect our rights, interests and environment,” he argued in the release.

“Those are the mining companies we will invite to work with us in our territories.”

The Cliffs assets are in Marten Falls’ traditional territory, the chiefs say, while a proposed north-south corridor to haul ore out of the Ring of Fire spans the traditional territory of both first nations.

At one time, Cliffs planned to ship the ore to a chromite plant in Sudbury for processing, creating as many as 500 jobs in the Sudbury area.

Noront, which has been involved in the region since 2007 with the Eagle’s Nest nickel-copper-platinum group deposit, says it has a good track record of consulting with native communities.

“We’ve spent a lot of time with the first nations communities, getting to know them and understanding their concerns, and building those concerns into our project designs,” the company’s CEO, Alan Coutts, told The Star last month.

The company even earned an environmental and social responsibility award from the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada this year for its work to engage communities in the remote corner of the province.

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