Cutting gov't red tape extends to the Ring of Fire: Details scarce, but Ford government committed to advancing Far North mine projects.

Author:Ross, Ian

The Ford government is determined to throw some fuel on the Ring of Fire.

But how mining development will unfold in the Far North still appears to be a work in progress.

In his Nov. 16 Fall Economic Statement, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli reaffirmed the government's commitment to cut regulatory red tape that's hindered advancement of the projects in the James Bay region.

Fedeli spoke about extending prosperity to "every corner of our province," and clearing the hurdles to develop the Ring of Fire.

"No more platitudes, no more delays. Instead, our government will work directly with our First Nations partners in order to realize the long-awaited benefits."

A new "special mining working group" will be tasked with streamlining the regulatory approvals process and attracting major investments to Ontario.

The Ring of Fire Secretariat, a Crown agency left over from the previous Wynne government, remains in place, but it's unclear whether the negotiating format to consult with area First Nations close to the mineral deposits--known as the Regional Framework Agreement process--will be restarted.

"The Ring of Fire is a top priority for our government. We are committed to cutting red tape and ending delays to ensure the Ring of Fire moves forward in a timely manner," emailed Sydney Stonier, press secretary to Greg Rickford, minister of energy, northern development and mines.

"Our government understands the incredible potential that exists in our North and we are making sure that the North is open for business. The Ring of Fire Secretariat continues to exist within the ministry and will remain dedicated to Ring of Fire planning."

Some Indigenous communities in the Far North recently voiced their frustration over the lack of dialogue with Queen's Park and the premier since the June provincial election.

The Regional Framework Agreement was a process started by the Wynne government in 2014 to work with the nine communities of the Matawa First Nations on how industrial development would take place, and how they would participate.

But the confidential talks dragged on, without results, and the process seemed to lose steam as the Wynne government narrowed its focus on those communities deemed more welcoming to mineral development.

The new government's philosophy is to work with "willing partners" to advance the mine projects, said Stonier.

"Ontario takes the Crown's duty to consult very seriously. The government will continue to build relationships as we work...

To continue reading