Ontario First Nations announce new step in Ring of Fire road building

Ontario Premier Doug Ford shakes hands with Chief Cornelius, Wabasse Webequie First Nation, left, and Chief Bruce Achneepineskum, Marten Falls First Nation, centre, after signing a new deal in the ring of fire in Northern Ontario at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's annual convention in Toronto on Monday, March 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Two northern Ontario First Nations announced Thursday they are taking another step toward all-season road access to potential mining sites in the Ring of Fire.

The region about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay is said to be rich in critical minerals and the province has made long-standing promises to develop and mine the area.

Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations are co-leading the planning of a Northern Road Link project, which the province said is the final piece of critical road infrastructure.

The two First Nations said they will be submitting a terms of reference for an environmental assessment for the proposed road.

Chief Bruce Achneepineskum of the Marten Falls First Nation said the project represents a potentially bright future for generations to come.

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“We are leading the Northern Road Link because the project is in our traditional territory and we are exercising our right to self-determination,” he said in a statement.

Premier Doug Ford said the roadway will form a vital connection for First Nation communities in the north.

“We are working side by side with our Indigenous partners to ensure that communities around the Ring of Fire have access to the roads needed to not only support development, but also improve access to everyday essentials like fuel, groceries and health care,” he said.

The region in Northern Ontario holds some of the world’s richest deposits of chromite, nickel, copper and platinum — valued at anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion.

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