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Feds start Ring of Fire environmental assessment

Ottawa taking a new region-wide approach to Far North development
Ring of Fire landscape

The full weight of Ottawa's new environmental assessment powers will now be applied in the Ring of Fire.

Instead of doing a series of one-off individual assessments on the impact of mining and mining-related infrastructure projects, the feds will be carrying out a new and improved Regional Assessment in the Far North mineral belt, which sit 540 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson decided to call for one based on three requests made to him last fall by Aroland First Nation, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada and Osgood Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic.

The government said Regional Assessments go beyond project-focussed impact assessments to help federal agencies understand the larger cumulative effects of existing or anticipated projects in a regional context. It offers comprehensive analysis toward making planning and management decisions.

In his replies to these groups, Wilkinson said he has yet to determine the terms of reference for this assessment but the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada will work in concert with the Ontario government, Indigenous and environmental groups, other federal agencies, and the public to carry out this process.

The first-ever federal Regional Assessment process was called in January and is now taking place in the areas east of Newfoundland-Labrador where there is current and potential oil and natural gas exploration.