• Landmark Ring of Fire Framework Agreement
  • April 30, 2014 | Authors: Stephanie Axmann; William Fyfe; Gary M. Litwack
  • Law Firms: McCarthy Tétrault LLP - Vancouver Office ; McCarthy Tétrault LLP - Toronto Office
  • On March 26, 2014, the Government of Ontario and the group of nine Aboriginal communities known as the Matawa member First Nations entered into a “Regional Framework Agreement” for the development of the so-called “Ring of Fire” in northern Ontario. This long-awaited agreement is expected to be a crucial step forward in the development of the Ring of Fire, a remote area of northern muskeg that is considered to have $60 billion worth of known mineral potential and includes North America’s largest chromite deposit.

    While there has been considerable interest in the Ring of Fire area, the pace of investment has been slow, due in part to a lack of infrastructure in the north as well as uncertainty surrounding the role that the region’s First Nations will have in its development. Steps have been taken to address both issues. Ontario is leading the creation of a regional development corporation comprised of mining companies, government and First Nations’ partners to address shortfalls in infrastructure. The Regional Framework Agreement should also begin to address questions around the nature of First Nations’ involvement and opportunities to participate in resource and economic development.

    Details of the Regional Framework Agreement are not yet publicly available, however the press release issued by the Government of Ontario on April 24, 2014 provides some insight into the potential opportunities available to First Nations:

    “The agreement ensures that First Nations and Ontario can work together on resource development opportunities. That includes: long-term, regional environmental monitoring; enhanced participation in environmental assessment processes; resource revenue sharing; social and economic supports; and regional and community infrastructure.”

    Bob Rae, a negotiator for the Matawa member First Nations, today indicated in a speech to the Toronto Board of Trade that the Regional Framework Agreement was the result of constructive “government to government” negotiations. He indicated that the Matawa member First Nations will be seeking direct economic participation in projects in much the same way that First Nations participate in energy and natural resource projects in British Columbia, Quebec and the Northwest Territories.