Public Values

Back room deal jeopardizes Ring of Fire area, benefits single mining company

First Nations' requests for public consultation denied.

Sumner: This government picked a winner based on a business deal.TORONTO, ON, May 9, 2012: CPAWS Wildlands League, a leading Ontario conservation group, condemns the actions by the provincial government and US-based Cliffs Natural Resources to strike a back room deal in the Ring of Fire area that potentially sacrifices ecosystems by deciding on a 350 km road based on the needs of a single mining company.

The province and Cliffs have decided to build this road in a pristine part of Ontario's far north without considering scientific concerns, irreversible impacts on fish and wildlife, and communities' needs.

With this announcement, Ontario has broken all of its commitments to "get it right" in the Ring of Fire with a business deal with Cliffs that pre-empts its own environmental assessment processes. The deal allows construction of a 350 km all-weather road, along what Cliffs has called the North South route. The all-weather road is estimated to cost $600 million — which will be largely borne by Ontario taxpayers.

  "Ontario and Cliffs made a business deal prioritizing Cliffs' bottom line over good public policy and the public interest."

"We are pleased Sudbury won the smelter. The location of the smelter is of lower relative environmental impact in a project like the Ring of Fire," says Janet Sumner, Executive Director of CPAWS Wildlands League. "The most important decision is the location of roads and other infrastructure to connect the mine to the smelter. Where, how much and what? These are the questions we needed Ontario to ask. Instead Ontario and Cliffs made a business deal prioritizing Cliffs' bottom line over good public policy and the public interest."

The road will bisect a largely intact area and includes crossings of at least three major rivers, and multiple streams. This is an area where wildlife including caribou and many species of fish live.

"We expected more from this government. We expected they would do what they said. We expected Ontario to get it right. In the absence of information, no substantive internal environmental review they can point to or any external process to weigh the pros and cons on access routes, this government picked a winner based on a business deal," stated Sumner.

CPAWS Wildlands League has long demanded that the province have a transparent, public, regional process where First Nations and stakeholders, including all affected companies, scientists, municipalities and the public would have a say in determining the future of the region.

First Nations' requests for a joint review panel for the environmental assessment have been rebuked by Ontario, Canada and Cliffs. In 2009, the Far North Science Panel also made a recommendation to Ontario warning it of the irreversible effects on aquatic systems and wildlife of poorly placed infrastructure in the Far North. Unfortunately it seems both Ontario and Cliffs ignored these reasonable recommendations.

"It is the epitome of bad development. It's like we've stepped back in time and ignored everything that we've learned over the last 40 years," said Anna Baggio, CPAWS Wildlands League Conservation Director. Ontario should hold a public regional process that examines all of the proposed infrastructure corridors together and determines which one meets the needs of communities, is based on sound scientific information, is most cost effective and has the least impact on sensitive species like caribou and fish, Baggio added.

Links and sources
  CPAWS Wildlands League concerned science sacrificed for quick business deal in Ring of Fire

Posted: May 24, 2012

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