Despite criticism for many corners that the provincial government is not doing enough to launch the Ring of Fire chromite development, Northern Affairs and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle argues that the province is making significant headway.
In a letter sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne on Monday to update her on the work he has been doing since 2014 to fulfil his mandate to promote mining and economic development in Northern Ontario, Gravelle pointed to the ongoing negotiations with First Nations near the Ring of Fire as a sign of progress.
Talks with Matawa-member First Nations in the region around the Ring of Fire are continuing, said Gravelle, under the auspices of the Ring of Fire Regional Framework Agreement.
“The agreement outlines key priorities for negotiations including enhanced First Nation participation in the Environmental Assessment process (currently underway), regional long-term environmental monitoring, infrastructure planning and implementation, socio-economic supports and resource revenue sharing in the Ring of Fire,” reads the letter.
The terms of reference for the ongoing environmental assessment being conducted for Noront Resources – which has the biggest land claim in the Ring of Fire – were only approved this past June.
Since he was given the mandate to oversee the Ring of Fire in 2014, Gravelle said his ministry has distributed $8.7 million to communities and band councils to help them build the capacity to be ready when mining begins at the Ring of Fire. On top of that, in the past two years, 1,950 people from First Nations have made use of skills and training programs to help them take advantage of opportunities that are expected to come from the development.
The Ministry is also negotiating bilateral agreements with the aboriginal communities closest to the mine site. They have signed a memorandum of understanding signed with the Marten Falls First Nation and a cooperation agreement with Webequie First Nation and are working on getting similar agreements with the Neskantaga and Eabametoong First Nations.
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