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Matawa signs framework agreement with Ontario

Thursday April 3, 2014
Submitted by Matawa First Nations

Ginoogaming First Nation Chief Celia Echum signs the regional framework agreement while Ontario’s Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle (left) looks on. Echum and the eight other Matawa First Nations chiefs reached an agreement with the province that allows the two parties to move forward with a negotiation process on a community-based regional approach to development in the Ring of Fire.
Submitted by Matawa First Nations

Marten Falls Chief Elijah Moonias examines the recently announced framework agreement with Ontario.

Matawa First Nations and Ontario have signed a framework agreement that the two parties say will ensure the First Nation communities benefit from the proposed Ring of Fire development.

The framework agreement allows the two parties to move forward with a negotiation process on a community-based regional approach to development in the Ring of Fire.

The agreement ensures First Nations and Ontario can work together to advance Ring of Fire opportunities, including regional long-term environmental monitoring and enhanced participation in environmental assessment processes, resource revenue sharing, economic supports, regional and community infrastructure.

The provinces said the regional framework agreement is a first step in a historic, community-based negotiation process, which began in July 2013 at the request of all nine Matawa First Nations, which includes Aroland, Constance Lake, Eabometoong, Ginoogaming, Marten Falls, Neskantaga, Nibimamik, Long Lake #58 and Webequie.

Webequie Chief Cornelius Wabasse called the agreement a “special and significant event.”

“The negotiations under this framework will complement the essential direct negotiations Webequie is having with the Province of Ontario on a range of issues related to the Ring of Fire,” he said in a media release issued by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM). “Success in both of these negotiations will chart a course for a different future for all of us. It is now time for the real work to begin and we look forward to working with Ontario and our fellow First Nations.”

Marten Falls Chief Elijah K. Moonias said he has seen many “framework type processes come and go,” including MOUs, but many did not go anywhere.

“I am optimistic that this regional framework allows us to be more involved in development and the decision-making that is going to happen,” he said in the same media release. “I am assured the regional framework will enhance and not supersede our community-based MOU signed in September 2012. We are working to set the course to move our First Nations away from dependence so that we can capture the maximum benefits and move towards community wellness and increase ambition for our people.”

Nibinamik Chief Johnny Yellowhead said the agreement is “not about selling our land, but sharing our land.”

“Nibinamik First Nation understands the importance of balance between economic development that is required to ensure community growth and productivity and the need to sustain cultural values and beliefs particularly as related to the land,” he said.

The other six chiefs also expressed excitement and hope in reaching the agreement.

Michael Gravelle, minister of the MNDM, said the regional framework agreement is a “landmark achievement in community and regional discussions.”

“I am proud that our collaborative work with Matawa-member First Nations continues to progress,” he said. “Together, we are moving forward on realizing the Ring of Fire’s potential and making important advancements on regional, environmental, and economic developments.”

Noront Resources Ltd. also praised the signing of the agreement. Noront’s president and CEO Alan Coutts said the company is “encouraged” by the agreement reached by Matawa and Ontario.

“We’ve always felt that having the right conversations is essential for progress in the Ring of Fire, and we expect that development will now be able move ahead in a timely fashion,” Coutts said in a media release.

Noront has invested $150 million in its Eagle’s Nest nickel, copper platinum and palladium deposit located within the Ring of Fire. Noront recently completed a coordinated federal and provincial Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Assessment Report for the project and submitted a draft copy for comments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

According to Ontario, the Ring of Fire has mineral potential of $60 billion and includes the largest deposit of chromite ever discovered in North America. Chromite is a key ingredient of stainless steel.The Ring of Fire also holds the potential for significant production of nickel, copper and platinum.

In November 2013, Ontario announced that it would lead the creation of a development corporation to bring together private and public partners, including key mining companies, First Nations, and the provincial and federal governments, to lead strategic infrastructure development for the Ring of Fire region.

An official celebration of the agreement will take place at a later date.

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