(Ottawa) MiningWatch Canada was pleased to learn that on March 15, Cliffs Natural Resources and the federal government lost their bid to exclude expert evidence from a court challenge launched by Matawa Tribal Council. Matawa is challenging the federal government’s decision to conduct a bare-boned environmental review of Cliffs’ proposed open pit chromite mine, 350-kilometre-long access road into the Hudson Bay Lowlands, and ferrochrome processing facility. Cliffs and the Attorney General of Canada took issue with affidavits from experts on wildlife, water quality, and environmental assessment.
In November 2011 Matawa launched a legal challenge of the decision about how to review the massive project, arguing that the decision violated constitutional obligations to consult and accommodate the affected First Nations and that the federal government made errors in administrative law in making the decision.
MiningWatch has repeatedly echoed Matawa’s call for a negotiated joint review panel process that would give the project greater scrutiny, include greater First Nations and public participation, and fully harmonise federal and provincial processes. Federal bureaucrats also recommended a different process but these recommendations also failed to sway decision makers.
The affidavits in question were from well respected experts in their fields. Professor Bob Gibson from the University of Waterloo is highly regarded for his publications and teaching about environmental assessment policy. Dr. Justina Ray is the Executive Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an adjunct professor at two universities, a research associate with the Royal Ontario Museum and has been appointed to numerous government advisory panels. Dr. Neil Hutchinson has 30 years of experience in aquatic sciences, and is the principal scientist at his own consulting firm. Cliffs argued that these experts are inappropriately acting as advocates, rather than independent experts. Canada argued that their evidence should not be considered because it was not before the decision makers at the time they made the decision about the environmental assessment.
Judge Aronovitch found these and other reasons presented by Cliffs and Canada to be unfounded and indicated that they had unnecessarily delayed the proceedings.
Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator (613) 298-4745 / ramsey(at)miningwatch.ca
Federal Court Order (PDF)