Submission on the Terms of Reference for a Regional Assessment in the Ring of Fire Area

This document represents MiningWatch Canada’s submission on the Terms of Reference for the Regional Assessment on the Ring of Fire Area, in response to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada's "Information Sheet: Planning the Regional Assessment in the Ring of Fire Area." Key conclusions:

  1. Indigenous Governance: We support the centrality of Indigenous governance in the Regional Assessment process for the communities most affected and the downstream communities on the impacted watersheds of Attawapiskat, Winusk, Ekwan and Albany Rivers. Useful guidance for the Agency for creating space and opportunity for this to happen is found in Gibson (2020) and Scott, Atlin et al (2020). 
  2. Boundaries: The regional boundaries for the Regional Assessment must be determined by natural ecosystems and Indigenous traditional use, not by mining interests. The decision defining the “region” for the Regional Assessment must be made by the Indigenous people and their governments. The Regional Assessment will also have to explicitly consider the effects of existing and potential flows of people, material, energy, and money in and out of those catchments. For example, the impacts of the three roads currently in EA, and the proposed development of a chromite mining industry including a smelter in Sault Ste. Marie (or elsewhere), need to be included in assessing Ring of Fire mining impacts.
  3. Sustainability and need and purpose: The work of the Regional Assessment has to be centred on questions of the sustainability of the natural systems in the region for many generations, and the long-term health of the Indigenous people who live there, based on the WHO Determinants of Health. This requires serious consideration of the need and purpose of the Ring of Fire mining development from the perspective of healing and sustaining the ecosystem, not helping the mining industry. Guidance may be found in Seven Steps to Sustainability, developed by the Mines Minerals and Sustainable Development project in 2002.
  4. Historical and current effects of mining in the region: The Regional Assessment has to investigate past and current effects of mineral development in the region, including the extent and impacts of claim staking under the Ontario Mining Lands Administration System and the principle of Free Entry, exploration impacts, and effects on communities of mining promotion and hype. A follow-up case study of the only recent mine in the region, the Victor Diamond Mine (2008-2019), comparing predicted to actual outcomes and assessing its impacts, is essential to a realistic Regional Assessment.
  5. The Ring of Fire scenarios: The Regional Assessment will have to consider many scenarios for possible Ring of Fire development, including a no mining option. We suggest a matrix for scenario development that includes factors to consider for all scenarios, some suggested scenarios for Ring of fire development over time, and questions for evaluating the scenarios.
  6. The Capacity of Regulators to Protect the Environment: There will be serious and long-reaching difficulties for governments to protect the environment and to honour its relationships with Indigenous Peoples in the face of a major extraction project such as the Ring of Fire. This section raises concerns that the Terms of Reference should address.