The CEO of Noront Resources says developing the Ring of Fire has become a longer process than he expected but adds it’s worth it. Alan Coutts made the comments Thursday night during a round table discussion in North Bay on the chromite project. Noront wants to first build a high-grade nickel mine which would also extract copper, palladium and platinum with chromite being mined later. A key to pulling off the Ring of Fire is ensuring there are partnerships with First Nations in the region.
Coutts says right now at the site, 25 of the 30 people are First Nation. What still needs to be hammered out are things like resource revenue-sharing agreements with First Nations and infrastructure. On the infrastructure, Coutts prefers an east-west road be built first and then the north-south rail line to haul out the chromite can be built at a later time. A key player in the chromite discovery is the Matawa Tribal Council which represents several First Nations near the site. Recently the council developed a framework agreement with the province that has four pillars.
Spokesman David Paul Achneepineskum says they include resolving socio-economic issues on the nearby reserves like suicide prevention and ending prescription drug abuse. Achneepineskum also said First Nations want to be equity partners in the business opportunities meaning they’ll have to raise money. The First nations will also be looking for jobs and that includes professional jobs, like accountants and lawyers and not simply those associated with the mines directly.
Another pillar is the environment and Noront has already committed to put tailings back underground rather than create tailings ponds. Noront says the tailings commitment as well others like job creation will go a long way towards building trust between industry and First Nations.