Develop Ring of Fire right: Green leader

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Read the original article at TheSudburyStar.com

The leader of the Ontario Green Party wants to see the Ring of Fire area in northwestern Ontario developed, but developed in an environmentally responsible manner that takes into account First Nation interests and gets the best bang for the buck.

“We are not opposed to development in the Ring of Fire, but we have concerns with the way the current government approaches it, and there’s even greater concerns with what Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak wants to do,” said Mike Schreiner, during a visit to Sudbury.

Schreiner said the Liberal government is not getting the job done with Ring of Fire in three areas: development planning, First Nation involvement, and how the resource will be processed.

He said the Conservatives would permit the mineral-rich Ring of Fire area to be developed too quickly and with little environmental oversight.

“Before any development takes place, we need to have comprehensive long-term land use planning in place that includes all groups and stakeholders,” he said. “In that plan, let’s develop the resource over the long term in a way that maximizes the benefit for Northern Ontario, yet answers all the environmental questions. It’s not being done.”

That long-term plan, said Schreiner, has to address things like transportation and infrastructure.

Schreiner also said the province is not listening to First Nation communities affected by the Ring of Fire.

“The fact they are talking about a $30-million diesel (power) plant is insane when we have mega hydro resources,” he said. “The First Nation communities I have visited have said ‘we don’t just want to be consulted: we want to be full partners. If you are going to develop on our land, we want to be full partners and have the economic benefits a well.’ That’s a realistic approach to have on the table.”

Screiner said the third area the Liberals are not taking the right approach is resource processing.

“We have to ensure that the processing (of the chromite) takes place in Northern Ontario,” he said. “Cliffs has said 40% of the material will be sent off to Asia. That’s our natural resource.

“Whether they are developed five years down the road or 50 years, they are going to grow in value over time. Let’s develop it in a way that maximizes the economic value to Northern Ontario … Let’s do it right. Let’s do it in a smart, sustainable way that maximizes the benefit for Northern Ontario, while protecting the health and environment for ourselves and future generations.”