“I’d like to throw this out to industry: if you want to work with First nations,
resource them enough so that we work together. We’re not in opposition, we’re
pro-development. We want to make sure that when the mine is gone, we’re still
going to be there.” (Aroland First Nation Chief Sonny Gagnon)
Terms of reference are in place for how the first mining project in the Ring Of Fire will work with nearby communities on environmental assessment.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change approved the plan for the Eagle’s Nest nickel mine on Friday, nearly three years after proponent, Noront made its first submission.
Noront continued social and technical work over that time, meeting with First Nations and operating with the best information available.
“We said, ‘we’re going to assume our terms of reference are right and we’re going to do the environmental work that supports those terms of reference,’ which we did over those three years,” said Noront CEO Alan Coutts, on Tuesday.
“If there were amendments, we’d deal with them when they came.” The final draft commits the company to supporting the collection of Aboriginal traditional knowledge and incorporating it into environmental planning.
A few First Nations contributed to the document and changes were made to accommodate those concerns. Ontario has, however, asked Noront to expand its scope to include all 10 Matawa member First Nations.
Coutts sees developing all of those relationships as critical to embarking on not only the nickel mine but the Ring Of Fire’s chomite potential.
“I think we were favouring a few communities rather than all of them and we’ll have to do some work with those other communities to keep them informed,” Coutts said.
“The next step is sitting down with those communities and saying, ‘what can you do? what can you not do? If you can’t, what do you need in terms of support from us?'”
When Premier Gold first met with Aroland First Nation Chief Sonny Gagnon, the company had intended to convert a lake the community uses for fishing into a tailings pond for its proposed mine near Geraldton.
That pond was abandoned and Gagnon says Premier paid for the technical support his community needed to make decisions about the territory’s environment.
Although he’s satisfied with Noront’s Terms of Reference, Gagnon wants Noront and the province to follow a similar strategy when it comes to the Eagle’s Nest technical and environmental planning.
“Why am I paying for something that’s not my development? If the MOECC does what they say they want to do in the Terms of Reference, the resourcing should be there,” he said.
“I’d like to throw this out to industry: if you want to work with First nations, resource them enough so that we work together. We’re not in opposition, we’re pro-development. We want to make sure that when the mine is gone, we’re still going to be there.”
Noront’s stock has increased 15 per cent since the plan was approved. Matawa chiefs will hold meetings in Neskantaga First Nation next week to discuss the document.