Attawapiskat | First Nations | In the News | Marten Falls
Ontario’s Ring of Fire: Native hope

Originally published in The Spec

February 28, 2020

FORT HOPE FIRST NATION, ONT. Roland Okeese is watching with keen interest as mining companies from around the world stake claims in the area around this remote northern Ontario reserve 300 km northeast of Thunder Bay.

The 36-year-old father of six already is a grandfather of two. But he is in his prime – strong, healthy and hopeful for a new career supporting the mining activity in the Ring of Fire, an area identified as rich in chromite, which is used in making stainless steel.

For Okeese and so many other community members, however, the path from here to there is difficult.

Okeese knows the wild country well. He’s good with a chainsaw. He has a few months’ experience doing contract work for Noront Resources.

But for much of his adult life, he was wrestling with an addiction to the prescription painkiller OxyContin. He didn’t graduate from high school. And his formal training is minimal.

“I’d like for the (mining) to happen. I’d choose to be working,” he says defiantly, recognizing that some in his community don’t share his view. “But I don’t have the skills.”

It’s a problem that needs to be resolved soon if a local workforce is to benefit fully from the mining activity poised to take off in the Ring of Fire.

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