Road to the Ring of Fire – by Marilyn Scales (Canadian Mining Journal – February/March 2017)

Noront is eager to begin development at Eagle’s Nest, the first of many mines

Spirits were high in March 2015 when the Ontario government announced at the PDAC it was moving forward with an allweather road into the Ring of Fire. Here we are almost two years later, and what do we have for the more than $750,000 in tax dollars that were spent? The answer: Not much. The province has consulted with various First Nations who would welcome a road. It has yet to announce a plan, route or schedule for construction.

Seeing the politicians make a decision and actually build a road is the one thing Alan Coutts, president and CEO of Noront Resources, says is vital to get the Eagle’s Nest nickel-copper-platinum-palladium development under way. The company discovered the deposit in 2007 and sparked a staking rush that made the Ring of Fire the most written about new camp since Hemlo.

The Ring of Fire lies about 500 km northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont. The area is centred on McFaulds Lake on the edge of the James Bay Lowlands. As many as nine First Nations may be impacted by mineral development, making consultation complex.

Noront has taken care to engage the nearby communities in consultation and planning. Its programs are some of the best. The company meets regularly with First Nations chiefs and their councils. Town hall meetings and open houses are held frequently. All written communication is supplied in English, Ojicree, Cree and French.

The company has established an aboriginal training alliance with the Matawa First Nations’ Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services and Confederation College of Applied Arts and Technology in Thunder Bay. The innovative Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance (RoFATA) provides skillsbased instruction and guidance. The effort is working. About 60% of the workforce at Eagle’s Nest is from the First Nations.

In 2015, Noront received the PDAC’s national environmental and social responsibility award. The recognition was for RoFATA as well as Noront’s support of Mining Matters programs, DAREarts, and the Mining Movie Making Youth Camp. Noront has signed agreements with the Webequie and Marten Falls First Nations, and it is from these communities that many of its employees have been hired.

Talks are continuing with other First Nations in the hope they all will benefit from resource development. De Beers Canada made the first volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) discovery in the area in 2002. A year later six more deposits were found.

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