By Pete Hollings and Peggy Smith
Cliffs pulls out of Ring of Fire.
First Nations demand full environmental assessment.
Communities struggle to build capacity to participate in mining development.
Where is provincial support for infrastructure to open new mining sites?
These headlines demonstrate the challenges in pursuing sustainable mining development in Northern Ontario. The competing plans of different companies, a need to address the concerns of First Nations and Metis communities, and a lack of clear government policy all bedevil mining projects in the region.
Lakehead University’s Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Mining and Exploration (CESME) was established to help address these issues and act as an honest broker among all the parties involved in the future development of Northern Ontario’s rich mineral resources.
On Dec. 5-6 CESME will be hosting representatives from all the major players at a conference to discuss The Role of Government Policy in Sustainable Mining Development.
Our conference will explore what we can learn from the past, where we are today, and what the future holds.
Bill Gallagher will discuss lessons learned from Voisey’s Bay, a major mineral deposit similar in scale to the Ring of Fire.
Jack Blacksmith of the Cree Mineral Exploration Board and Ugo Lapointe from the Better Mining Coalition will explain how Quebec handles mineral development.
Sue Craig will speak to government-funded electrical power transmission in northwest B.C. as a catalyst to stimulate mine development and provide electricity to First Nations.
SNC Lavalin’s Steve Lindley and indigenous community activist Laura Calmwind will provide an international perspective.
Bob Rae, negotiator for the Matawa First Nations, will discuss Reconciliation and Partnership between Canada and First Nations.
Glenn Nolan (Noront), Jason Aagenes (Cliffs), Elsie MacDonald (Webequie First Nation), and Ramsey Hart (MiningWatch Canada) will share current developments in the Ring of Fire.
CESME’s conference is one of many important steps needed to move things forward in Northern Ontario. By mixing insightful presentations with provocative roundtable discussions, this conference will broaden our understanding of the policy gaps inhibiting sustainable resource development in the North and develop recommendations for various levels of government.
CESME is uniquely positioned to facilitate this process by offering a neutral space for parties to come together and share goals and concerns, in addition to making available its diverse range of researchers with the necessary skill sets to move things forward.
Working together to identify the policy gaps and create constructive solutions, we have the potential to revive the optimism that surrounded mineral development just a few months ago and turn Thunder Bay into the vibrant economic driver it can be, not just for Northern Ontario, but the whole province.
The Ring of Fire may be the focus of attention, right now, but establishing clear resource development strategies that benefit all stakeholders, as well as other projects in various stages of development, is imperative to our future prosperity. CESME’s conference is an important next step.
Pete Hollings and Peggy Smith are with the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Mining and Exploration at Lakehead University.