Two First Nations intent on leading Ring of Fire environmental review

By Carl Clutchey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Chronicle-Journal

Northwestern Ontario — The two Indigenous communities in closest proximity to the future Ring of Fire mineral belt say they are best positioned to lead a regional environmental assessment relating to future mines and access roads.

Both the Webequie and Marten Falls First Nations said last week in a news release “they wish to be clear that the focus of the (regional assessment) is on their traditional territories, and that they therefore intend to lead all activities in their traditional territory, without exceptions.”

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is leading the regional assessment into the remote Ring of Fire located about 550 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

The agency said earlier that it plans to incorporate Indigenous input into the assessment process, but has stopped short of committing to an Indigenous-led one.

Currently, Webequie and Marten Falls are respectively overseeing environmental reviews into east-west and north-south all weather roads into the Ring of Fire. Mining proponents like Noront Resources have deemed the roads to be essential before any mines can be built.

In regard to the federal regional assessment, the two First Nations “clarified” earlier this month in a letter that they are in the best position to lead an Indigenous-led regional assessment in the Ring of Fire, as opposed to that process being led by a tribal council, for example.

In the news release, Webequie and Marten Falls said that while “they recognize the rights of other Indigenous communities across the region may also be impacted by development activities, they are also mindful of the fact that Marten Falls and Webequie will be the most impacted communities, as the Ring of Fire is located entirely within their traditional territories.”

“Marten Falls and Webequie support an Indigenous-led regional assessment, but firmly believe their two communities should lead the process,” Marten Falls Chief Bruce Achneepineskum said.

“This is in accordance with our community values, traditions, and protocols,” Achneepineskum added. “We have always respected the rights of other communities to do the same in their traditional territory.”