Ontario Authorizes Exploratory Drilling By Noront In Ring Of Fire Despite Attawapiskat Objections

The Ontario government has issued Noront Resources eight mineral exploration permits in the metal-rich Ring of Fire region, garnering objections and a warning from the James Bay Cree community of Attawapiskat.
Noront can now use existing trails to bring in a drill with a bulldozer, according to one permit. Where there are no trails, the permit says Noront plans to fly in heavy machinery via helicopter to begin testing for minerals.
Authorization was granted only one day after a Feb. 24 court ruling said Ontario’s failure to properly consult Attawapiskat before issuing past permits was “corrosive of reconciliation,” while the conduct of mining firm Juno, recipient of those permits, “was an affront” to that goal.
This time, the provincial ministry of Northern Development and Mines insists it approved exploratory drilling and geophysical surveying “following a lengthy process of consultation” with the remote First Nation and other potentially impacted ones.
“The Director of Exploration took steps to ensure that concerns raised by or on behalf of the First Nation were appropriately considered and addressed, including through terms and conditions incorporated into the permits,” the ministry said in a March 10 statement to APTN News.
But Attawapiskat continued to raise objections in a March 7 letter to the exploration director, Scott Burgess. The letter said no mining activity, exploratory or otherwise, should occur until a First Nations-led probe has studied the potential environmental impacts across the entire 5,000-square-kilometre Ring of Fire tract.
“Attawapiskat First Nation is aware that the western worldview in which you operate has great difficulty understanding cumulative impacts because it is too linear and fragmented and fails to consider the lands in a holistic and circular manner, as we do,” wrote Chief David Nakogee. “However, your difficulty in understanding our perspective is not an excuse to fail to address our concerns.”
Debate continues over regional assessment
In recent weeks, the battle has ratcheted up over what the provincial government and metal-extraction firms cast as a possible modern-day gold rush. Except the target isn’t gold but vast subterranean stores of chromite, nickel, copper, titanium-vanadium and more.
It’s billed as a potential multi-billion-dollar economic bonanza that would create jobs, establish a smelting plant in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and contribute to a nascent electric vehicle manufacturing industry.
But the prized minerals all lie beneath Treaty 9 territory, which covers a substantial chunk of northern Ontario including the entire Hudson Bay coast.
Attawapiskat and others have repeatedly asserted their treaty rights and inherent jurisdiction over the area, pointing out that the Omushkegowuk, also known as the Swampy Cree, have been the only people to inhabit and use the territory from time immemorial.
“We Omushkegowuk have knowledge and wisdom borne of millenia of being in here in this part of the world, of caring for these lands,” Nakogee said in a March 2 letter to federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. “This wisdom tells us we are all part of one whole, and each part depends on the others for sustained survival.”