Ontario Government and Cliffs have been holding confidential meetings without First Nations – Aroland Chief

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Mining NowAROLAND FIRST NATION – Aroland First Nation has filed a request for disclosure to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) on information relating to Cliffs Chromite mining project in the area known as the Ring of Fire under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Aroland is one of the First Nations that will be directly impacted from the Cliffs initiative which includes the construction of an open pit mine, ore processing facility, ferrochrome production facility and an integrated transport system that will include a 340 kilometer North-South all-season road corridor from the mine site to just west of the community of Aroland. A number of major environmental impacts have already been identified and has raised concerns with First Nations closeby.

The First Nation states, in a media release, “The decision to file a freedom of information request was made when it came to light that the Ontario Government and Cliffs have been holding confidential meetings, concealing information and are preparing to make an announcement”.

“We need to find out what has been going on behind closed doors. Our community is going to be impacted by the Cliffs project along with many others, but we were not part of these meetings, nor were local municipalities. We believe Cliffs and the province are holding discussions behind all of our backs about the ferrochrome processing plant, the mine, the infrastructure, and more,” said Chief Sonny Gagnon of Aroland First Nation.

The Chief explains, “We need to find out the extent of these exclusive meetings. They are deciding the future for everyone in Northwestern Ontario without consulting any of us. Furthermore this a breach of our constitutional right under section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act, 1980 which guarantees First Nations the right to be consulted and accommodated on matters that affect them and their traditional lands.

Aroland’s request seeks records in the possession of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and any provincial department and ministry with which the MNDM participated in the decision to site the Cliffs Natural Resources Ferrochrome Production Facility in the greater Sudbury area, near Capreol.

“This is exactly why a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment does not work for First Nations. We want a negotiated Joint Review Panel, we want to fully participate, we want to protect our land, our people and exercise our Aboriginal Treaty Rights. We don’t want to be a victim of the Comprehensive Study EA and end up like Attawapiskat,” Chief Gagnon concluded.

The First Nations have been seeking that the development in the Ring of Fire include benefits in economic development for the region. On April 17th, in Greenstone, Chief Moonias stated, “The companies want to come in and exploit the resources and leave nothing behind for local long-standing benefits such as electric grid connection and roads access – both a boost to the local economy. By proposing to use diesel generators at the mine, Cliffs/Noront signal they are not interested in helping with infrastructure development nor will they support the smelter in a new location – to avoid environmental accounting they want to consider any new location.”

Moonias went on to say, “We want infrastructure out of the development, a new powerline will do this. We have a company interested in studying this project in partnership with the communities. The Province should support this for environmental reasons over diesel, the Federal government should support this long range outlook – grid connection will eliminate costly community diesel generation systems. What we ask of Cliffs and Noront is to provide the opportunity to study this regional initiative until the final decision on the access corridor, smelter location and power supply is addressed, and that there is satisfaction from all parties that no alternative exists to what the companies are proposing,” said Chief Eli Moonias of Marten Falls First Nation.

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