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Is there a path into the Ring of Fire?

Noront steps up talks with First Nation to key 2018 mine development
Noront camp
Noront Resources' Esker Camp in the James Bay lowlands

Ring of Fire developer Noront Resources said it’s starting discussions with Neskantaga First Nation this month in an attempt to find a “mutually agreeable path” to drive an all-weather road into the Far North mineral camp and connect the remote communities.

Time is becoming a factor for the Toronto-based exploration camp and its timetable to start development of its Eagle’s Nest nickel mine in the remote James Bay region by 2018.

Noront said the province has agreed that there will be “shovels in the ground” by next year.

But no word has come down from Queen’s Park or Ottawa on when money will be released to build an access road or what route will be chosen.

In a Jan. 17 news release, Noront said progress is being made in their discussions with the province, the feds, and the First Nations to come up with a joint infrastructure plan, but while this is going on, the province is engaged in a separate Regional Framework process with Matawa Tribal Council.

To Noront, this process is “taking longer than anticipated.”

To keep the dialogue going, Noront is focusing its negotiations with Marten Falls and Webequie, which are “progressing well with both these communities recently sending delegations of senior community members to view site activities," said a company release.

"We believe that having a common view toward resource development and effective partnerships in place with Marten Falls, Webequie and Neskantaga First Nations are the keys to the timely and successful development of the Ring of Fire," said Noront president-CEO Alan Coutts in a statement.

The company said the meetings with Neskantaga will be facilitated by a mediator.

Noront points out that a “significant number” of its exploration crew are from Webequie and Marten Falls; and more than 60 per cent of Noront's exploration staff are First Nation.

The Ring of Fire mineral deposits lie within the traditional lands of Marten Falls, Webequie and Neskantaga.

Coutts will be in Sudbury on Jan. 26 to speak at a chamber of commerce luncheon.