Ensure environmental security of Ring of Fire

Open Letter to Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines

It is with respect that I write to you on behalf of Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet (CUSP). From my experience I believe that you are a person who believes in doing the right thing and I believe that you have worked hard for your constituents for almost two decades.

However, I am concerned for us all with regard to the Ring of Fire development, and the upcoming negotiations with your federal counterpart, Tony Clement, with whom you say you have a “good working relationship” (CJ, Feb. 20). Be careful, Mr Gravelle, this project may represent your political legacy; and I know you care about that.

In his visit to Thunder Bay, Feb. 19, Mr Clement cited huge, long-term revenues and jobs as the reason we should support RoF mining development. But we have heard that before. In our history of boom and bust we Northern taxpayers, citizens, and voters have contributed largely to develop the infrastructure for resource development — and have frequently paid the price for cleanup long after the revenues and the jobs are gone.

While Clement mentioned that the RoF chromite deposits “represent the single, largest, stable source of the metal in North America”, he didn’t mention that the mining and processing of chromite ore releases hazardous toxins such as Chromium 3, and especially Chromium 6, into the environment. Nor did he mention that the James Bay Lowlands, where chromite will be mined, are the largest collection of intact wetlands in the world, including four major rivers and over 100 bodies of water.

And he sure didn’t mention that Cliffs Natural Resources, the largest player in the RoF, currently stands in violation of environmental legislation for loss of containment of hazardous wastes in both Quebec and Minnesota.

Mr Gravelle, I know that you remember how, for decades, resource extractions from mining and forestry poisoned the English-Wabigoon and Serpent river systems in Northern Ontario. And, of course, you remember the “toxic blob” in the Thunder Bay harbour, and the taconite plume that flowed this way from Minnesota. They are history — but I know you will agree that we should not repeat such mistakes.

In this context I also know that you are aware that the majority of the Matawa First Nations, and numbers of environmental groups including CUSP, have requested full federal/provincial environmental hearings into mining in the RoF — without success. Considering past history, what will you do now about that?

In Mr Clement you are negotiating with a person whose government, in the last year, has cancelled the Experimental Lakes Area research station near Kenora, virtually gutted the federal environment ministry, and through two omnibus bills, negated a host of standing environmental safeguards, including the Navigable Waters Act. Clearly, the government which Mr Clement represents has shown disregard and disdain for the environment. Knowing that, how will you “negotiate” with him?

As our elected representative, and as the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, we ask you to do the right thing. While CUSP isn’t against mining per se, we ask you to protect our long-term environmental interests in the Ring of Fire. Don’t roll over for the Harper government, or the corporations. Don’t leave a legacy associated with environmental degradation. Stand firm, and make us proud.

Peter Lang,

Comment sent via CUSP Contact: Mr Lang’s letter in today’s Chronicle Journal speaks volumes for the people that are concerned with the rush to resource based industry investment. The minerals have always been there and will still be there if we are patient and play our cards right. I’m all for prosperity but not at the expense of our rich natural heritage going to unethical unconcerned stockholders that are bent on seeing profit at any price to our waterways. Minaki White Dog comes to mind. Will the circle be unbroken? Fortunately my faith in fellow citizens is restored when we can witness Mr Lang articulating a potential political quagmire for our embattled Provincial representative. Mr Gravelle has some unenviable contentious issues to resolve. We need to support his position and give our vote of confidence in obtaining the best long-term solution not just for sustainability but for the long term of the region and hopefully prosperous generations to come.

Michael Copps