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Ring of Fire, Ontario Canada


The Ring of Fire refers to the massive planned chromite mining and smelting development project in the mineral-rich James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario, which is the "third largest wetland in the world" (Gov. of Ontario, n.d.). This is Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) and Omushkego (Cree) territory (Leahy, 2014). Challenges facing the development of the Ring of Fire include lack of access to the remote region, infrastructure deficits such as roads, railway, electricity and broadband, First Nations land rights, and environmental issues (Rocha E. et al., 2013). In 2010 and 2011 several blockades were set up by Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations. The Ontario Government has been using divide and conquer tactics in attempts to weaken opposition by First Nations.

The Ring of Fire has been considered "one of the largest potential mineral reserves in Ontario" with "more than 35 junior and intermediate mining and exploration companies covering an area of about "1.5 million hectares" (Matawa FN, 2013).

By 2010, there were more than 30,000 claim units in the 5,000-square-kilometre area (Canadian press, 2010). Tony Clement called the Ring of Fire "the oil sands of Ontario" (Tencer, D., 2013), with a potential of generating $120 billion (Matawa FN, 2013).

Proponents claim the projects will "create jobs and generate growth and long-term prosperity for northern Ontario and the nation" (McKie, D., 2013).

First Nation opposition to exploration activities is based on concerns regarding access roads, lack of

adequate consultation, lack of respect for previous agreements as well as

environmental concerns including impacts to fish and caribou habitat.

"The Ring is located in the heart of an irreplaceable environmental treasure. And over 24,000 First Nations people scattered in 34 small communities call these their ancestral lands. They depend on wild fish and animals for food and have inherent rights to the land. This wilderness of trees, wetlands, lakes and rivers is part of the planet’s largest intact forest. It supports hundreds of plant, mammal and fish species, most in decline elsewhere, and is the continent’s main nesting area for nearly 200 migratory birds. As one of the world’s largest storehouses of carbon, it helps keep climate change in check" (Wilderness League, n.d.).

The First Nations chiefs are concerned that building roads into the region will open up the Far North to “uncontrolled mining development” that will bring pollution and change their way of life (Northern Ontario Business, 2018).

"First Nations in the Ring of Fire are some of the most socioeconomically disadvantaged communities in all of Canada. Chronic housing shortages, low education outcomes and lack of access to clean drinking water jeopardize the ability of local First Nations to benefit from the significant economic, employment and business development opportunities associated with the Ring of Fire developments"(McKie, D., 2013).

A 2015 Ontario Chamber of Commerce report argues that " years of delay have "soured" public perceptions of the region as a viable economic investment" (Canadian Press, 2015).

In 2019, Minister Rickford said the Ring of Fire development process has been

“complicated and overburdened with bureaucracy... all-talk, no-action...with no shovels in the ground after a decade of discussion"(Ross, 2019). He spoke of forming a “coalition” of willing partners among First Nation communities and municipalities who support the construction of an access road (Ross, 2019).

Time line:

August 2007: Noront Resources announced the discovery of a "large find"

of "high grade deposit" of platinum, palladium, nickel, and copper 500 kilometres (310 mi) northeast of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Its underground mine project is called the Eagle's Nest Project

2003 : Noront Resources began using two frozen lakes—Koper Lake, located about 128 kilometres (80 mi) north of Marten Falls, and McFaulds Lake—as landing strips without consulting Martens Falls and Webequie First Nations (Younglai etal, 2015).

January 2010: Community members and representatives from Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations set up a blockade on the landing strips at Koper and McFaulds Lakes (Talaga, 2010), protesting the lack of consultation with their Nations.

March 2010: The blockades were lifted

after band leaders said they had received positive responses to their concerns from the mining companies (Canadian Press, 2010).

April 2010: The government of Ontario announced

that it would open a large chromite deposit in the area to development.


Ontario's Ministry of Northern Development and Mines created the Ring of Fire Secretariat.

2011: The Marten Falls First Nation erected a blockade seeking the immediate termination of all exploration activity by all companies operating in the Ring of Fire (Murray, J. 2011 a).

2012: BY this time, there were 30,000 claims, 35 prospecting companies, and significant discoveries of chromium, copper, zinc, nickel, platinum, vanadium and gold; there were only two major development proposals, Noront Resources's Eagle's Nest Project and Cliffs Natural Resources.

May 2012: Cliffs Natural Resources announced a "$3.3-billion investment to build a chromite mine, transportation corridor and processing facility. Natural Resources minister Michael Gravelle announced that the smelter would be in Sudbury, Ontario .

June 2013: Cliffs announced it would put its $3.3-billion project on hold pending results of negotiations between First Nations and Queen's Park . "After numerous delays and difficult discussions with the province [of Ontario] and the First Nations communities,"Cliffs sold its assets to the smaller Canadian company, Noront Resources Ltd. for USD20 million (Younglai, 2015).

April 2014: The Regional Framework Agreement process was initiated by the provincial government. This was intended as a community-based process of negotiation with the Matawa First Nations tribal council on how mining and industrial development would unfold in the James Bay lowlands, how First Nation communities would participate and benefit, and how the environment would be safeguarded. It’s not publicly known what progress, if any, was made over four years, since the talks were kept confidential (Northern Ontario Business, 2018).

Ontario committed $1 billion to develop an all-season transportation corridor to access these remote deposits (Chetkiewicz, C., et al., 2018).

June 2014: A report, co-authored by Wildlife Conservation Society and Ecojustice,

recommends Ontario conduct a regional strategic environmental assessment (R-SEA) that would investigate the potential social and environmental impacts of mining and associated infrastructure developments on the entire region (Leahy, 2014).


But late in Premier Kathleen Wynne tenure, the whole process went into hibernation as the government shifted from trying to achieve consensus among the nine Matawa communities toward adopting a strategy of working only with the First Nations deemed “mining-ready”. Chief Elizabeth Altookan called this""A quick and dirty approach to opening the whole north" (Northern Ontario Business, 2018). A jurisdictional table was launched to discuss governance and land-use planning issues of the access roads. That panel excluded Neskantaga and Eabametoong (Northern Ontario Business, 2018).

August 2017:

"The previous Ontario government broke with the regional table and made separate deals with Webequie, Marten Falls and Nibinamik First Nations to plan and build multi-use roads to the Ring of Fire (Chetkiewicz, C., et al., 2018).

Summer 2018:

"Eabemetoong won a major victory in the Division Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice. A provincially-issued permit for Landore Resources to do exploration near Keezhik Lake in northwestern Ontario was revoked by the court based on inadequate consultation with local Indigenous people. The court said company will have to complete consultation with Eabametoong before a permit can be re-issued for Landore’s claim.

Summer 2018: Ford government fires the province’s main negotiator in the Ring of Fire consultation process, Justice Frank Iacobucci.

Nov 2018: The communities of Neskantaga and Eabametoong called out the Ford government for suspending

the Regional Framework Agreement process, and not replacing a fired negotiator. Ministry of Northern Development and Mines issued a response that area First Nations will have a say in how development proceeds (Northern Ontario Business, 2018).

Jan 2019: Provincial cabinet minister Greg Rickford

(minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Indigenous Affairs) reaffirmed the Ford government’s commitment to opening up the mineral deposits in the remote James Bay region (Ross, 2019).

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Ring of Fire, Ontario Canada
State or province:Ontario
(municipality or city/town)James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Mineral ore exploration
Mineral processing
Specific commodities:Copper
Chromites, Nickel, copper, platinum. Chromite is an iron chromium oxide: FeCr2O4. It is an oxide mineral belonging to the spinel group.
It is an important mineral for the production of metallic chromium, used as an alloying ingredient in stainless and tool steels.
Iron ore

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

The Ring of Fire is a massive planned chromite mining and smelting development project in the James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario (Gov. of Ontario, n.d.). Chromite is used in making stainless steel.

This region holds one of the world's richest chromite deposits as well as nickel, copper and platinum, which have been variously valued at anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion (Canadian Press, 2015).

It is considered "one of the largest potential mineral reserves in Ontario" with "more than 35 junior and intermediate mining and exploration companies covering an area of about "1.5 million hectares" (Matawa FN, 2013). By 2010, there were more than 30,000 claim units in the 5,000-square-kilometre area (Canadian press, 2010).

Development has been delayed for almost a decade by challenges of accessing remote regions and due to demands by First Nations for adequate consultation.

Noront Resources plans to open a chromite mine and send ore to a smelter either in Timmins or Sault Ste. Marie for processing. A ferrochrome facility would process chromite from the Ring of Fire.

The company at one time was also considering Coniston as the potential location for its chromite smelter, but earlier this year narrowed its list to the Sault and Timmins.

Project area:1 500 000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:24, 000
Start of the conflict:08/2007
Company names or state enterprises:Noront Resources from Canada - Noront Resources Ltd holds 85% of all claims in the district. As a result of the 2015 acquisition of the Cliffs chromite properties and the 2016 acquisition of MacDonald Mines, Noront now has ownership or a controlling interest in all the major discoveries to date in the region
Cliff Natural Resources from United States of America - Was bought out by Noront Resources
Relevant government actors:Ontario Provincial Government

Federal Government

Nine Matawa communities: Marten Falls First Nation, Webequie First Nation, Neskantaga First Nation, Nibinamik First Nation, Aroland First Nation, Long Lake 58 First Nation, Ginoogaming First Nation, Eabametoong First Nation, Mishkeegogamang First Nation, and Constance Lake First Nation.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:CPAWS Wildlands League

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada


Stop the Ring of Fire – Water is Life – Anishinabek Rights Now

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations and other First Nations in the region
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills, Global warming, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts, Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Other Health impacts, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts, displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development delayed
Development of alternatives:A report, co-authored by Wildlife Conservation Society and Ecojustice, recommended that Ontario conduct a regional strategic environmental assessment (R-SEA) that would investigate the potential social and environmental impacts of mining and associated infrastructure developments on the entire region (Leahy, 2014).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Projects have been delayed but the situation in ongoing.

It's not clear what environmental justice could look like in this situation.

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Far North Land Use Planning Initiative: The Far North Land Use Planning Initiative is about working with First Nations to identify where development can occur and were land is dedicated to protection in the Far North of Ontario.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Annual Report from the Environmental Commission of Ontario 2012-13 (with specific chapter on the Ring of Fire)

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Ring of Fire lights up Northern Ontario's mining industry". Ontario Business Report. MRI.

(Gov of Ontario, n.d.) Far North Ontario: Community based land use planning in the Far North of Ontario". Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario.

(Ross, I., 2019) Rickford promises progress in the Ring of Fire, Northern Ontario Business

(Matawa FN, 2013) Ring of Fire News: Removing our support, government is not listening".

(Tencer, D., 2013) Clement: Ontario 'Ring Of Fire' Will Be Canada's Next Oil Sands, The Huffington Post Canada

(Rocha E. et al., 2013). "Canada sees decades of gains from Ring of Fire deposit" Reuters Business News

Younglai, R., et al. (2015). "Cliffs Natural Resources completes costly exit from Ontario’s Ring of Fire". The Globe and Mail

(Talaga, T., 2010) "Natives lift Ring of Fire blockade". The Star

(Murray, J. 2011 a). "Marten Falls First Nation Starts Blockade on Ring of Fire." NetNewsLedger

(Murray, J., 2011b) "Marten Falls First Nation Statement on Ring of Fire Blockade", NetNewsLedger.

(Canadian Press, 2010)"Ring of Fire blockades lifted", CBC News

(Northern Ontario Business, 2018). "Lack of consultation on Ring of Fire development frustrates First Nation communities".

(Canadian Press, 2015). "Feds' Ring Of Fire Funding Gets 'F' From Ontario Chamber Of Commerce". Huff Post

(Gamble, J., 2017) "What's at stake in Ontario's Ring of Fire". Canadian Geographic

(Leahy, D., 2014). Ecologically Unique ‘Ring of Fire’ Needs More Study Before Development, Groups Say. The Narwal

(Chetkiewicz, C., et al., 2018) "A sustainable plan for Ontario’s Ring of Fire". Policy Options

Ring of Fire Protest Planned in Sudbury

(McKie, D., 2013). "Ring of Fire mining may not benefit First Nations as hoped Internal memo from Aboriginal Affairs paints troubling picture". CBC News.

GETTING IT RIGHT IN ONTARIO'S FAR NORTH - The Need for a Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment in the Ring of Fire [Wawangajing]

(Report by Cheryl Chetkiewiczand Anastasia M. Lintner) Commissioned by Wildlife Conservation Society and EcoJustice

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Ring of Fire. A six part series by APTN

(Wilderness League, n.d.)

Other documents

Ring of Fire development work Sourced from:

Landscape in Ring of Fire area sourced from:

Ring of Fire Map Source:

Stop the Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire Map A map showing current (2017) mining claims on Treaty 9 territory in Ontario's Ring of Fire.(Map: Chris Brackley/Canadian Geographic)

Meta information

Contributor:Jen Gobby
Last update13/03/2019



Ring of Fire development work

Sourced from:

Landscape in Ring of Fire area

sourced from:

Ring of Fire Map


Ring of Fire Map

A map showing current (2017) mining claims on Treaty 9 territory in Ontario's Ring of Fire.(Map: Chris Brackley/Canadian Geographic)

Stop the Ring of Fire