A Toronto-based legal group is throwing its support behind the opposition to development in the Ring of Fire mineral belt.
The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), whose clients are the Friends of the Attawapiskat River, is calling for an immediate moratorium on all mineral exploration and all mine-related development, including a halt to the environmental assessments underway for the proposed community, supply, and ore-haul access roads.
They're throwing their support behind Mushkegowuk Council and Neskantaga First Nation that a protection plan must be put in place first – safeguarding wetland and watersheds in the Far North and respecting Indigenous rights – before any further action takes place.
The protection plan would be based on available science and traditional knowledge of the land that reflects the ecological significance of the Hudson Bay and James Bay lowlands.
They collectively say health, housing, clean water, and Indigenous and treaty rights must be prioritized and secured before there's construction and mining.
Toronto-based CELA bills itself as a not-for-profit legal clinic, funded by Legal Aid Ontario, that works to seek justice for those harmed by pollution and looks to change policy to prevent such problems. Their staff and board members are experts in ecological science, environmental and natural resources law.
Joining CELA in opposition are MiningWatch Canada, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, Wildlands League, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Northwatch, Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, East Coast Environmental Law, West Coast Environmental Law, among other environmental protection and environmental law groups.
Ottawa is in the early stages of its new Regional Assessment process in soliciting comments from stakeholders on how mining and infrastructure development will impact the James Bay region.
Other environmental assessments (EAs) are underway on the various access road segments on the proposed north-south road and the supply road leading into the nickel and chromite exploration camp, 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.
Last week, Noront Resources, the leading mine developer in the Ring of Fire, said it expects all the road EAs to be finished by 2023. Road construction would immediately follow with the completion date by 2025, coinciding with the start of production at its first mine, the Eagle's Nest nickel project.
Two First Nation communities in the James Bay region, Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations, are road project proponents.