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NEWS: Ring of Fire mine proposals prompt water concerns

Today, the Globe and Mail reports on the proposed open-pit and underground mines in the James Bay lowlands area of northern Ontario, often referred to as ‘the Ring of Fire’. The article notes, “The Ring of Fire is spread over the traditional lands of the Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations, and will likely affect the lives of people living in Fort Hope, Neskantaga, Attawapiskat, Aroland and Nibinamik.”

Marten Falls First Nation Chief Eli Moonias has been focused on the seven year long boil-water advisory in his community and now the impact of chromite and nickel mining on the Albany and Ogoki rivers in his territory. “Environmentalists fear contamination of the nearby waterways as well as toxic residues and disruption of wildlife, including endangered species… There’s (also) the need for a transportation corridor to ship the ore off to the Sudbury area for processing. Environmentalists are worried a proposed 350-kilometre road through the pristine boreal forest and over several major waterways will bring pollution and wildlife disruption.”

“Ironically, a road of some sort may help with Marten Falls’ short-term drinking-water concerns. The band wants the road to be rerouted so that it would actually go through the community, connecting it to the outer world by land year round for the first time. …The result would be ready access to the community, bringing in cheaper supplies and professional help that Marten Falls requires frequently to keep its water system in good shape. Mr. Moonias is convinced it’s the high cost of flying in bottled drinking water that is prompting the federal government to suggest a quick but insufficient fix to the local water system (that) would require residents to walk down to the plant and carry it home in buckets.”

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made ‘responsible resource development’ his principle philosophy, one that reaches into almost every federal department and policy. …The federal government has responsibility for aboriginal affairs. Ottawa also conducts environmental assessments of the road and mining developments, and will likely help fund some of the infrastructure needed to make the projects viable. …The provincial government has jurisdiction over natural resources and mining, so many of the permits needed to develop Ring of Fire come from Queen’s Park. Ontario also has to give environmental approvals, and is working with Ottawa on an environmental assessment not just of the projects, but also the infrastructure.” A letter obtained by the Globe and Mail indicates that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has asked Harper for his help to ‘open up the North’. Last spring, Harper’s Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver pledged to work with Ontario to ‘unlock’ billions of dollars in economic activity.

“Several first nations are fighting the process in court, asking for public hearings and a regional examination of the cumulative effects of current and future projects.”

Council of Canadians campaign blogs on the Ring of Fire can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22ring+of+fire%22, notably http://canadians.org/blog/?p=15454. More about our campaign work against mining internationally can be found at http://canadians.org/mining. Today’s Globe and Mail article can be read in full at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/northern-ontario-chromite-mining-has-first-nation-worried-for-water-safety/article6759045/.