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Scratch that: Feds to rethink Ring of Fire environmental assessment after First Nations criticism

Originally published in The Narwhal

March 7, 2023

‘There is no access to critical minerals in Canada without Indigenous Peoples being at the table in a decision-making position,’ Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said

Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has agreed to scrap a draft framework for a regional assessment in the Ontario Ring of Fire region and start over, working with First Nations.

For over a decade, governments and companies have sought to mine in the remote and environmentally-sensitive area known as the Ring of Fire. Accessible only by plane, or ice road in the winter, it’s located in the James Bay Lowlands and has deposits of key minerals that some people want to mine to fuel the production of electric vehicles. The federal Impact Assessment Agency has been working on a regional assessment in the area for the last three years, a review which is meant to use western science and Indigenous Knowledge to inform future development. 

That process has moved forward slowly so far, with several First Nations raising concerns about the first draft of the rules that are supposed to guide the process, the terms of reference. Last year, the chiefs of five First Nations asked Guilbeault to toss those terms out entirely, saying they focused on too small of a geographic area, didn’t include all of the types of development that could happen and limited First Nations to “token” roles

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