By Alan Coutts, President and CEO
One of the most important stages in permitting a mining project in Ontario is assessing the potential environmental effects—both positive and negative.
To do this, the project’s proponent (or leader) must conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA), which involves getting an approved Terms of Reference (ToR) from the provincial government. The ToR is basically a work plan for what will be studied as part of the EA.
When Noront received an approved ToR for its Eagle’s Nest project in 2015, the scope included both a mine and a 300 km all-season access road into the Ring of Fire. At the time, the mining company was expected to be the proponent for both. But, after initiating conversations with First Nations in the region, it was clear they wanted to play a major role in the EA for the access road, which transected their traditional lands.
The best way to ensure this was for the communities to become the road’s proponents. Though this isn’t a typical approach, the province agreed to provide the communities with funding so they could conduct EAs on the sections of road that cross their traditional lands. All sections of a road to the Ring of Fire are now advancing under this new and innovative permitting model.
With that in place, Noront will restart the Eagle’s Nest mine EA without the all-season road in the work plan. This requires a revised ToR, so the company is currently working with the province to take this next step in the environmental permitting of the first mining project in the Ring of Fire.