Get ready for the next round with Cliffs

So, Cliffs Natural Resources has opted out of its environmental review process — for now (Chromite Mine Plans On Hold — CJ, June 13). But, without doubt, they’ll be back to offer us all jobs and prosperity when we’re ready to offer them less environmental red tape. There’s simply too much chromite in the Ring of Fire for them to disappear for very long.

Meanwhile, the B.C. government has rejected the Gateway pipeline proposal — for now. It did so because Enbridge did not adequately explain how it would contain a bitumen spill on land or in coastal waters. But, similar to Cliffs and chromite, there’s just too much bitumen in the tar sands for them to go away. The Joint Review Panel (JRP) evaluating the environmental impacts of the pipeline has received the B.C. comments and will continue its work.

In Thunder Bay we should be happy that by withdrawing for now, Cliffs has given us more time to argue for a more rigorous review process. A number of First Nations communities and environmental groups have requested a federal directive to Cliffs to undergo a Joint Review Panel assessment.

Essentially, a JRP is a fully transparent public process conducted by experts independent of government and industry — and that’s just what we need here for the Ring of Fire development.

Yet, to date, it has been denied. This is because the discretion to grant a JRP belongs to the federal government, and this federal government is all for “moving the project forward.”

At least that is how Tony Clement put it to us in Thunder Bay earlier this year, and he’s the FedNor minister in charge of the Ring of Fire.

So to that end the feds have deemed it OK to conduct a lesser review called a Comprehensive Study, a process mostly between the government and the prospective corporation, with very limited public participation compared to a JRP.

Fox in the chicken coop? Duffy at the trough?

We won’t know unless the process is more transparent.

Environmentally, what’s at stake here is the preservation of the Ring of Fire land area itself, as well as the James Bay lowlands watershed comprised of four rivers and over 100 bodies of fresh water.

In Northwestern Ontario we should be no less concerned than were the public in B.C. The effects of poorly contained toxic mining wastes in a watershed the size of Belgium could well result in an environmental catastrophe. If we are to safeguard this area for future generations we need, at minimum, a Joint Review Panel for mining development in the Ring of Fire. We also need full involvement of the First Nations.

We must resist the rush mentality. The minerals in the ground will remain valuable for the time when (and if) they can be mined safely. A Joint Review Panel can help us decide how that could happen.

Peter Lang