First Nations can’t veto development in northern Ontario. They must engage in good faith, just like business and governments, and not squander this opportunity
Joseph Quesnel is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute. Kenneth Green is Senior Director, Natural Resource Studies at the Fraser Institute.
ANTIGONISH, N.S. /Troy Media/ – It’s often said that successful First Nations must operate at the speed of business, not the speed of government. That certainly applies to First Nations affected by the Ring of Fire mining proposal.
Long delays and lack of communication between governments and the nine First Nation communities involved have plagued efforts to establish mining of largely chromite deposits in the region 500 km north of Thunder Bay.
A central bone of contention is the construction of an all-season transportation corridor to get the mined ore to plants in northern Ontario where it can be refined. In late May, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told a Chamber of Commerce meeting in northeastern Ontario that movement on an infrastructure plan should come in “weeks, not months.”
But even if the necessary infrastructure gets built, development of the region’s minerals is not a given, as uncertainty from aboriginal consultations continues to discourage investment.
For example, in 2013, mining company Cliffs Natural Resources, after spending millions on negotiations, pulled out as a major claims holder in the region when First Nations negotiations failed to show meaningful progress. Noront Resources, the company that purchased Cliffs’ mining claims, has said negotiations have stalled, making the goal of shovels in the ground by 2018 increasingly unlikely.
Consultation with the region’s First Nations needs to happen. Indeed, Ontario’s Mining Act requires aboriginal consultation.
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