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Long and Winding Process to Building Ring of Fire Supply Road Reaches a Major Milestone

Nov 18, 2021

Building a road to Ontario’s deep north to allow the mining operations in the mineral rich Ring of Fire, an area with sizeable chromite, nickel, zinc, copper, gold and other minerals, has proved to be a long and winding experience.

On October 8, 2022, the Ring of Fire Supply Road project reached a significant milestone when Ontario Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Parks, David Piccini informed Marten Falls First Nation he had accepted the Environmental Assessment study Terms of Reference they had submitted for the Marten Falls’ Community Access Road (MFCAR) Project
The decision enables Marten Falls to start the Environmental Assessment (EA) process which will study the environmental and social impacts of the road from Webequie First Nations to Marten Falls.
Marten Falls Chief Bruce Achneepineskum said he was pleased that a major milestone has been passed for a road project that will “enable socio-economic development to reach unprecedented levels within this region.”
In a separate news release, Chief Cornelius Wabasse of Webequie First Nation,  announced that his community has also given approval for the terms of reference of the Webequie Supply Road.
The road being proposed by the Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations as proponents will undergoing rigorous environmental assessment to study the impacts and mitigation measures that will make the two sections of the road viable with minimal impact on the natural and man-made environment. Public consultations will be held as part of the Environmental Assessment. The roads will be developed and funded by the Ontario government.
The phase one Webequie road is a proposed 107-kilometre road that will link the Webequie Airport to the McFaulds Lake area in the James Bay region near where Noront’s Eagles Nest nickel project is located with its chromite project a short distance away.
The road from Webequie to Marten Falls is the second stage of the proposed permanent road into Ring of Fire mining area. This would be a 120-kilometre-long, north-south, two-lane gravel road to be used by residents of the communities and mining vehicles to reach the provincial highway system for the first time. The mining industry would also use it to shuttle people, supplies and material into the exploration and future mining camp, and transport raw bulk ore material out for processing in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.
The third phase of the project will see a road built from Marten Falls to roads linking to Highway 11 and the provincial highway system.
“We share a common vision with Webequie to change how development occurs in our traditional territory,” Achneepineskum said. “Today, we are leading the planning and assessment of this project to ensure that environmental risks to our traditional ways of life are thoroughly assessed and mitigated, and that opportunities for First Nations people are maximized.”
Achneepineskum said. “The road project offers the opportunity to bring “economic reconciliation” for remote First Nations in Ontario.
The two Chiefs affirmed that this an Indigenous-led EA process that will involve traditional knowledge and consultation with community members. The chiefs’ stated commitment is use best practices to safeguard the environment during the road building process.
“One of the main reasons we are leading this environmental assessment is to exercise our jurisdiction and inherent rights, as well as to generate the necessary information to make informed decisions about the future of the lands and prosperity of our members through self-determination,” added Webequie Chief Cornelius Wabasse.
“We are hopeful that our neighbouring First Nations will trust us to lead this planning work responsibly, respecting traditional protocols, clan families and environmental concerns,” said Wabasse. “At this stage, we don’t know if Webequie First Nation will decide to build a road, but we are generating the information needed to inform those future decisions,” Wabasse added
“We look forward to getting started on the many studies and consultation activities that will allow us to make informed decisions about a potential road in our territory. We appreciate the Ontario government’s commitment to supporting the planning of key community infrastructure that has the potential to bring positive socio-economic impacts to the region.”
Earlier in 2021, the two First Nations selected SNC-Lavalin and Dillon Consulting through a competitive bid tendering process. The selection of the two veteran Canadian engineering firms was announced in a joint news release by Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation, the two community road proponents, on Jan. 28.

Ring of Fire Road pic

Two consulting firms will conduct environmental assessment (EA) studies for the second leg of the proposed Ring of Fire Road, from Marten Falls to Webequie.
The Northern Road Link is a proposed 200-kilometre-long road running from west of Marten Falls north and connect with the 107-kilometre Webequie Supply Road. The latter road runs east from the Webequie Airport to the McFauld’s Lake area where exploration activity is taking place.
The Northern Link is part of the proposed north-south in the Ring of Fire area south of James Bay, which would connect the two isolated communities to the provincial road network for the first time, and also provide land access into the high-grade nickel, chromite and other riches of the Ring of Fire mineral belt.
The two First Nations closest to the Ring of Fire area, reached agreement with the Ontario government in 2020 to be the proponents of the Northern Road Link Road which links the Ring of Fire area, Webequie and Marten Falls to Aroland and Nakina, which has access to the CNR rail line and Highway 11.
Usually, projects by First Nations are exempt from the Environmental Assessment Act. The Ontario government through the terms of the Environmental Assessment Act has final approval of terms of reference prior to the start of the EA process that will study the environmental and social costs compared to the social economic benefits of the road
Ontario recently acceded to a request from nearby Neskantaga First Nation to extend consultation deadlines on the Marten Falls Road (March 31) and the Supply Road (Feb.26) to give communities more time because the pandemic restrictions reduce their ability to provide comments.
“We respect the measures taken to protect the health and well-being of your community,” Kathleen O’Neill, director of the environmental assessment branch, with the ministry of the environment, conservation and parks, said in a Jan. 25 letter to Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias.
“The ministry continues to be aware of the challenges faced by all in light of the pandemic and appreciates the efforts communities have made to adapt to the situation.”
As to when the roads will be completed and become useable according to the project timelines from Noront Resources, the leading mine developer in the Ring of Fire, all the road EAs are scheduled to be finished by the end of 2023. Noront is timing the start of construction of its Eagle’s Nest nickel mine at the beginning of 2024 to be ready for commercial production by 2026.

To read more about mining in Northern Ontario click on the front cover of Mining Life & Exploration News magazine's October Issue.

Front Cover Pic





Tags: Northern Ontario / Ring of Fire / Battery Metals / All Articles