The provincial environmental assessment (EA) process is starting for proposed community roads in the area of the Ring of Fire.
Late on Oct. 8, Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister David Piccini announced approval has been given for the terms of reference for the Marten Falls Community Access Road.
That coincided with separate news from Chief Cornelius Wabasse of Webequie First Nation that his community has also given approval for the terms of reference of the Webequie Supply Road.
His First Nation, which is the closest community to the Ring of Fire mineral belt, was designated by the province as being the project proponent.
The terms of reference process involves engaging community members, other First Nations, and other interested public stakeholders to help develop a detailed work plan for how the EA will take shape.
In a news release, Marten Falls Chief Bruce Achneepineskum was pleased that a major milestone has been passed for a road project that will "enable socio-economic development to reach unprecedented levels within this region."
Webequie Chief Wabasse also responded.
"At this stage, we don't know if Webequie First Nation will decide to build a road, but we are generating the information needed to inform those future decisions."
The Webequie road is a proposed 107-kilometre link is between the Webequie Airport and the area around McFaulds Lake in the James Bay region where mineral exploration is taking place.
Said Wabasse: "Ultimately, it will be a community-directed decision by the people of Webequie First Nation whether to proceed or not with the construction of a supply road after the Environmental Studies and Impact Assessments are complete."
"We remain committed to a First Nations-directed approach on this assessment; one that upholds our community principles, values input from others, and supports our environmental stewardship responsibilities."
The roads will be developed and funded by government.
In a statement, Marten Falls' Achneepineskum was pleased with his community's efforts and the minister's decision.
"The real work of the EA begins now, and I encourage all our neighbouring communities to meet with us, in person or remotely, to consult on the EA. This is where the actual work of the assessment begins."
Said Wabasse: "We look forward to getting started on the many studies and consultation activities that will allow us to make informed decisions about a potential road in our territory. We appreciate the Ontario government's commitment to supporting the planning of key community infrastructure that has the potential to bring positive socio-economic impacts to the region."
According to the project timelines from Noront Resources, the leading mine developer in the Ring of Fire, all the road EAs are scheduled to be finished by the end of 2023.
Noront is timing the start of construction of its Eagle's Nest nickel mine at the beginning of 2024 to be ready for commercial production by 2026.