On a rock-covered beach in the heart of the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, Alex Moonias gazes east, then north. All he sees is undisturbed land, water and air. Some 100 kilometres from where he stands, the province plans to build a road as part of its pledge to mine the area, which is said to be rich in metals needed for electric vehicle batteries.
Moonias, an elder from Neskantaga First Nation, and many in his community see the provincial government’s ambitions for the Ring of Fire as an existential threat to their way of life. “Mother Earth is hurting,” the 70-year-old says. “If a big needle is pushing into your body, how would you feel?”
The survivor of a residential school and, later, alcohol addiction, has heard government promises of prosperity related to developing the territory before. And he’s not convinced. “The government has to come and see the land, or at least spend time with us,” he says, breathing in the morning air as water laps the rocky shoreline. “The gift the Creator gave us is to protect the land.”
Neskantaga’s leadership is not completely opposed to mining in the Ring of Fire, a 5,000-square-kilometre area about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont. But they are dead set against the way the province has gone about it, saying the government has not properly involved them.
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