Indigenous concerns grow as Ontario pursues mining in the ‘Ring of Fire’ area for electric car batteries

Published by Brent Patterson on

On November 9, CBC reported: “Premier Doug Ford’s government … want to lure the big automakers to produce electric vehicles in southern Ontario. A key part of that strategy involves opening up the so-called Ring of Fire mineral deposit, located more than 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay in an area home to Indigenous people.”

The area is rich in the minerals used in electric vehicle batteries and energy storage systems, including cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel, graphite and copper.

But Chief Wayne Moonias of the Neskantaga First Nation says: “There is going to be opposition, if this continues the way it is and the Ford government or any future government doesn’t recognize the rights of our people, it’s going to be a strong stance.”

And Kate Kempton, a partner with the law firm OKT that has represented the Attawapiskat First Nation in a recent court challenge, says: “This situation with the Ring of Fire is, in my view, explosive, and the public is probably going to see that in 2022.”

In April of this year, the Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, and Neskantaga First Nations in the James Bay lowlands declared a moratorium “on any development in or to facilitate access to the Ring of Fire area” saying mining would permanently desecrate the land.

This media statement notes: “This MORATORIUM is declared because Canada … has breached the honour of the Crown [laws including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] and the project of reconciliation and decolonization by acting with duplicity behind our backs in collaboration with Ontario.”

The Ring of Fire area is roughly 100 kilometres in diameter, and 85 per cent of the mineral claims staked on the Crown land are held by Toronto-based Noront Resources.

The CBC further notes: “Noront Resources is currently the focus of a bidding war between two Australian mining firms, BHP Group and Wyloo Metals.”

Another CBC article highlights: “A group of organizations — including Osgoode Hall Law School’s Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic, Greenpeace Canada, the Council of Canadians and MiningWatch Canada — asked the Ontario Securities Commission in August 2021 to investigate whether the extent of Indigenous opposition to Ring of Fire development has been reported by Noront Resources.”

Lawyer Ali Naraghi says: “Greenpeace Canada stands in solidarity with Neskantaga First Nation and supports its inherent right to land, resources, self-determination and governance. This includes the right to oppose any mining development on Neskantaga land that poses a threat to the community’s way of life and culture.”

We will continue to follow this situation.

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