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Gravelle aims to silence critics: Province has thumb on Ring of Fire pulse, he says

The Chronicle Journal

ARTICLE

By Bryan Meadows

Environmental groups are sounding alarms over potential mining development in the James Bay Lowlands.

Ontario Nature spokeswoman, Victoria Foote said in an email Monday to The Chronicle Journal that the group has been watching the ramping up of staking and exploration in the once pristine habitat with growing alarm.

"We are enormously concerned that, given the scale of activity, Ontario, despite the Liberal's professed green agenda, may soon boast an environmental disaster that could be likened to a mini-tar sands," she said.

The frenzy of staking and exploration has picked up in the Ring of Fire mining district since the government announced it was overhauling The Mining Act, Foote said.

While Premier Dalton McGuinty has declared that the province would protect at least half of the northern boreal region, she questioned how the province can claim it is safeguarding an area when more than 40 junior and intermediate mining campaigns are ramping up plans for open pit mining and all the infrastructure and facilities needed to support mining.

"The reality is that the relevant ministries - Northern Development, Forestry and Mines, Natural Resources and Environment - are turning a blind eye to these massive projects in the North," Foote said.

Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Minister Michael Gravelle disagreed with the sentiment, saying his ministry is working on environmental issues as well as economic development opportunities in the Ring of Fire.

"The Ring of Fire area is a very exciting economic development opportunity, but it's a long way off from any mines opening there," he said.

Gravelle said a required part of the process for establishing any mining infrastructure is consultations with First Nations in the area.

"We are not turning a blind eye," to potential mining projects, he said, noting his ministry is developing a land use, environmental and consultation plan to guide development in the region.

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