CASE STUDY: FIRST NATIONS MORATORIUM ON MINING AND THE ‘RING OF FIRE’, ONTARIO
Image: Canadian Geographic
First Nations Moratorium on Mining and the ‘Ring of Fire’, Ontario
A large area in Ontario, Canada known as the ‘Ring of Fire’ is currently vulnerable to new mining operations from Australian companies.
Located in Ontario, Canada the area covers 5000 square kilometres with mineral deposits including nickel, copper, platinum, palladium and chromite. The region was recently the subject of a mining bidding war between BHP and Wyloo Resources (owned by Australian billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest) over establishing a“world-class future metals hub”.
A proposal to build an access road to support mining exploration was approved in 2020, sparking nine First Nations groups to declare a moratorium against mining on their territories. First Nations groups and the Friends of Attawapiskat joined in opposition due to concerns of socio-environmental impacts from mining expansions. The area contains vulnerable wetland and peatland ecosystems which form one of the world’s most important carbon sinks, storing an estimated 26 billion tonnes of carbon.
The declaration put Canada on notice until the State’s obligations to UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples) were respected and the government agreed to a new Regional Impact Assessment (RIA) led by a representative Indigenous governing body. While the process involved the forming of a committee to include an Indigenous-led consultation process, the government failed to allow the main Indigenous governing body to join. In January 2022, several First Nations groups sent a letter to the Environment Minister demanding that he disband the committee due to failing to consult groups adequately.
Local communities are increasingly concerned about the recent takeover by Forrest, whose reputation for fair dealing with Indigenous peoples in Australia is poor, with several legal Native Title disputes linked to his projects over the years.
Photo below from Friends of the Attawapiskat River (FAR) are a coalition of impacted community members and allies focused on stewarding and protecting the Attawapiskat River and its watersheds., ‘Ring of Fire’, Ontario, Canada.