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UPDATE: Matawa Chiefs withdraw support for resource development in northern Ontario

Marten Falls First Nation at the junction of the Ogoki River and the Albany River.

Marten Falls First Nation at the junction of the Ogoki River and the Albany River.

The Toronto Star reported in mid-June that, “Directly above the Albany (River in Ontario’s Far North) lies the Ring of Fire — more than 5,000 square kilometres of pristine wilderness that is believed to contain a $30 billion deposit of chromite, the ore used to make stainless steel.” Ring of Fire is the name given to the resource rich area located in Matawa First Nation homelands and traditional territories, north of Marten Falls First Nation and east of Webequie First Nation.

“Prospectors also say a treasure trove of platinum and diamonds lies underneath. …But the pursuit of these riches means (companies) must blast, bulldoze and bigfoot through the Albany watershed, the surrounding boreal forest and the swampy peatland of the Hudson Bay lowlands. Railway bridges (will) have to be built to cross both the Albany and the Attawapiskat rivers (which separate the resource-rich north from the ever-growing south). KWG Resources wants to build hydroelectric dams on the rivers the railway would cross. The dams would provide the power to process the ore.” The tundra in this area supports one of the earth’s largest continuous wetlands through which half of Canada’s largest dozen rivers drain.

“The race to develop the ring is already furiously underway. International mining companies have staked more than 9,000 claims covering 480,000 hectares. …Three mining giants have put forward project plans (that include open pit and underground mines, as well as the hydroelectric dams) that now must be assessed environmentally by both Ontario and Ottawa officials.”

A media release issued earlier this week states, “(Nine) Matawa Chiefs withdrew their support for development in the Ring of Fire… The Chiefs and the 8000 people they represent are calling on Premier McGuinty and Prime Minister Harper to intervene in the Environmental Assessment process. …Matawa Chiefs are outraged that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is proceeding with (simply) a Comprehensive Study EA. The Chiefs and their people have been calling for a (fuller) Joint Review Panel EA for five months but the government is still not listening.”

Chief Roger Wesley of the neighbouring Constance Lake First Nation says, “We want development, but we also want to make sure that our lands, waters, wildlife, and our way of life are not destroyed in the process. The government is forcing us to take alternative action. They are not listening to us or consulting us in a meaningful way, and they are certainly not accommodating us.”

Past campaign blogs on the Ring of Fire in the Matawa First Nation homelands and traditional territories can be read at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?s=%22ring+of+fire%22.