Aroland Chief Gagnon – Ontario thought they could divide and conquer us

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Ring of FireTHUNDER BAY – Mining Now – Following on the announcement by Cliffs Natural Resources and the Ontario Government, Aroland First Nation is saying that “Ontario thought they could divide and conquer us”. The Chief of the Aroland First Nation, Sonny Gagnon has raised serious questions about the ethics of Ontario Mining Minister Rick Bartolucci and MPP for Sudbury. “The Minister, in a last ditch effort of questionable morality, arranged a secret meeting late yesterday (May 8) between the Aroland Chief, the Marten Falls Chief, and Ontario officials. The goal of the meeting was to head off growing First Nation opposition to the Cliffs chromite mine and refinery”, charges Chief Gagnon.

“After ignoring First Nations for months, Ontario thought they could divide and conquer us by holding an 11th hour meeting and making a few promises without our fellow Matawa Chiefs present,” said Chief Sonny Gagnon. “Ontario needs to deal with First Nations first rather than simply taking orders from Cliffs. We want the refinery in Aroland territory, and we want the highest standard of environmental review for the project.”

“We asked the Minister to pause the Cliffs announcement on the refinery, but Bartolucci said he had no control over Cliffs”, said Gagnon. “Who is really running this Province? Our elected officials or an American mining company?”

A regional coalition of elected municipal officials and First Nations support locating the refinery in Aroland First Nation territory and it having the highest standard of environmental review.

The refinery and mine could bring up to 1,000 desperately needed jobs to First Nations in the region. An area suffering from chronically high levels of unemployment following a downturn and restructuring of the forest industry.

Unless properly reviewed in a joint panel, the Cliffs project with its 350 km long permanent transportation corridor and mega open pit mine threatens to open up a remote region of Ontario to uncontrolled mining development, dramatically alter river systems, discharge toxic pollution and fundamentally change the environment and way of life remote First Nations-forever.

The Cliffs project is the canary in the coal mine of the Harper government’s rollback of environmental regulation. In October 2011, the Matawa First Nations were forced to launch a judicial review when the federal government decided to simply use a paper process called a comprehensive study to review the environmental impacts of this unprecedented mega project in the untouched headwaters of the Attawapiskat river system. Cliffs has supported the federal government in their decision, touting their preference for an American style regulatory process that gives corporations freedom and flexibility, and eliminates any independent oversight of the environmental assessment of the project.

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