In the vast peatlands of Ontario’s James Bay Lowlands, a new region-wide approach to considering the potential impacts of northern mining development is dangerously close to sliding completely off the rails. And it may take Canada’s new “activist” Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault with it.
Mineral deposits in the Ring of Fire have long fuelled Ontario’s interest in opening up the region. Now, dreams of a new nickel mine are driving plans for an electric vehicle manufacturing hub and leading Australian mining giant Wyloo to take over major mining stakes.
But the proposed all-season roads and related infrastructure that will be necessary for this transformation in the remote and ecologically sensitive area have generated significant controversy and conflict.
A regional approach
The government of Canada entered the fray in February 2020, when the previous minister of environment and climate change announced a regional assessment in the Ring of Fire, the first such major study to take place fully under the contested new Impact Assessment Act.