THIS TIME nine years ago the potential of the Ring of Fire mineral belt in Northwestern Ontario was being realized. More than 30 mining exploration companies were digging around the James Bay lowlands and finding immense evidence of mineral deposits, chiefly chromite — the main ingredient in stainless steel.
People salivated over the economic impact and potential job creation. Then-premier Dalton McGuinty called the project key to Ontario economic recovery. His northern development minister, Thunder Bay’s Michael Gravelle, began the first of many meetings with First Nations in the region.
Initially, few in the business world took seriously the need to consult with First Nations before putting development plans in motion. This led to protests by those communities and eventually to a whole new legal framework ensuring such consultation would precede any development.
Everyone involved realized the potential to provide economic stimulus across the North, a region accustomed to crumbs while the rest of Ontario dined heartily.
Fast forward to 2017. How things changed! The Liberal government now run by Kathleen Wynne reluctantly came to the conclusion that all those years of trying to negotiate a framework agreement with the Matawa Tribal Council representing nine First Nations surrounding the Ring of Fire were hopeless.