Development of the Ring of Fire
This motion calls for responsible mining development of the ‘Ring of Fire’ region in Ontario. The motion is consistent with Green Party values and policy.
WHEREAS the Ring of Fire is located in remote Northwestern Ontario on the traditional territory of the Matawa First Nations, and has been estimated by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to contain mineral wealth having a 32-year economic impact worth up $25.2 billion; and
WHEREAS the government of Canada has a role to play in negotiations with First Nations, and has a regulatory role under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act pertaining to the Ring of Fire; and
WHEREAS taking as much of the mineral wealth from the ground as quickly as possible is detrimental to comprehensive planning needed to achieve desirable long-term outcomes;
BE IT RESOLVED that to practice responsible development in keeping with the principles of sustainable development derived at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in order to create a truly sustainable 21st century industrial enterprise in the “the Ring of Fire”, comprehensive planning, which includes baseline data, must take place involving assurances of resources and meaningful consultation with indigenous communities, the Governments of Canada and Ontario, resource developers and other stakeholders. Maximizing upstream and downstream economic benefits, while leaving behind future community assets, is necessary for long-term sustainability. Extraction of resources must do minimal damage to the natural environment. Comprehensive planning shall ensure the inclusion of mechanisms for long-term monitoring.
To grow economic, human and social capital, the enterprise must adhere to the following interconnected provisions:
- Community Benefits - Mining operations will leave behind assets for the community, including: physical infrastructure from mining activities; low-carbon transportation and energy infrastructure; human capital in the form of a highly-trained and productive work-force; social and cultural capital in the form of enhanced community infrastructure; economic capital through the creation of a Ring of Fire Heritage Fund.
- Energy – primarily from renewables, with a focus on the use of new technologies to achieve carbon neutrality throughout the region. Existing diesel power in the region will be phased out.
- Transportation – a truly sustainable 21st Century low-carbon transportation system, with indigenous peoples’ ownership of assets in traditional territory encouraged.
- Value-Added Industry – to maximize economic opportunities, upstream and downstream valued-added processes, such as the use of local contractors for construction, and the local processing and refining of resources, shall be promoted.
- Lifecycle Planning for Extracted Resources – full cost accounting and lifecycle planning must be built into the cost of resource extraction. The minimization of environmental damage during extraction and processing must be a priority, along with the repair of the natural environment to pre-extraction conditions at the close of extractive activities.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT to maximize the long-term use of non-renewable mineral resources, the Green Party of Canada support the creation of “cradle to grave” recycling programs for these resources.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT a Stainless Steel Working group will be formed to examine and assess the feasibility of creating a made-in-Canada stainless steel industry in Northern Ontario.
Ontario’s Ring of Fire is located 540 km northeast of Thunder Bay, and includes North America’s largest known deposit of chromite – the primary ingredient of stainless steel. Located within the traditional territories of the Matawa member First Nations, the Ring of Fire is currently not accessible by road or rail. At least 3 mining operations are currently pursuing plans to mine deposits, however negotiations with First Nations and federal and provincial issues (including a lack of transportation infrastructure and energy issues) are seen to have delayed these projects.
Recently, the Ontario provincial government signed a Framework Agreement with Matawa member First Nations. However, much work remains to take place before any extraction can occur, including federal and provincial environmental assessment processes.
The Green Party acknowledges that the mining of minerals generally yields assets which are of benefit to society. Development of the Ring of Fire will make other mining activities in Northern Ontario possible, particularly if the groundwork is laid for a truly sustainable 21st Century industrial enterprise – one which does not rely on the use of fossil fuels and out-dated transportation technology.
First Nations must be real partners to development, and Canadians must see the benefit from our tax investments. Since the value of minerals in the Ring of Fire is only expected to increase over time, there is no reason to rush development – instead, taking the time to get things right only makes sense. To achieve results, comprehensive planning is necessary so that the right decisions are made initially, and tax dollars are not wasted by paying twice for infrastructure.
Strong, effective environmental considerations must be built into all aspects of the enterprise. Profits from the enterprise must be shared between corporations which make the upfront investment of capital, and the present and future citizens of our nation. A heritage fund, similar Norway’s, which sets aside wealth from North Sea oil, is a necessary component to ensure that future generations reap some of the benefit of extracting non-renewable resources in the Ring of Fire.