In the News
Ecologically Unique ‘Ring of Fire’ Needs More Study Before Development, Groups Say

Originally published in The Narwhal

23 June 2014

Two Ontario-based environmental organizations are calling on the recently reelected Ontario Liberal government to assess the potential cumulative social and environmental impacts of mining projects in northern Ontario’s ‘Ring of Fire’ before mining begins. The ecological services Ontario’s Far North provides Canada and the world are too valuable to take for granted the organizations argue in a report released last week.

“Simply put, this is not a place that can be “offset” or restored if it is damaged or destroyed by poorly planned development,” the report, Getting it Right in Ontario’s Far North, states.

Northern Ontario is the single largest intact extant of boreal forest in the world. It is the last refuge for species at risk such as caribou, wolverine and lake sturgeon and the nesting grounds for thousands of songbirds. The region is a “critical storehouse” of carbon in the fight against climate change. The forests and peat lands of Ontario’s Far North absorb 12.5 million tonnes of global warming carbon dioxide emissions annually, and store ninety-seven billion tonnes of carbon.

The federal government estimates between thirty to fifty billion dollars worth of mineral resources lay beneath ground of the so-called Ring of Fire, a five thousands kilometer squared area (roughly the size of PEI) five hundred kilometers north of Thunder Bay in the northern James Bay Lowlands.

“We need a planning process that is equal to the scale and complexity of the challenge, rather than continuing to depend on piecemeal efforts that put wildlife species and human communities at higher risk in the face of global pressures like climate change and a race for resources,” Cheryl Chetkiewicz, associate conservation scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada, said.

The authors of the report – Wildlife Conservation Society and Ecojustice – detail the need for the Ontario government to change its assessment approach to the Ring of Fire, the largest mineral find in Ontario in decades. The report recommends Ontario conduct a regional strategic environmental assessment (R-SEA) that would investigate the potential social and environmental impacts of mining and associated infrastructure developments on the entire region. 

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