Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 92: Business and Reconciliation (92)

Ring of Fire Metals CEO responds to environmental concerns 

September 27, 2023

Says mining on high ground means minimal impact on peatlands 

Kristan Straub, CEO of Ring of Fire Metals
Kristan Straub, CEO of Ring of Fire Metals, provides an update on the development of the Eagle’s Nest Project within the Ring of Fire at a State of Mining luncheon at the Dante Club on Tuesday. Straub estimates the Nickel production from Eagle’s Nest could supply half a million electric vehicles per year, about 15 per cent of the 2030 forecast for the North American EV market. NICOLE STOFFMAN/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD, apsmc

NationTalk: The Mid-North Monitor – Kristan Straub provided an update on the development of the Eagle’s Nest Project within the Ring of Fire at a State of Mining luncheon at the Dante Club on Tuesday.

Eagle’s Nest is an undeveloped high-grade nickel sulphide project and chromite deposit 400 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, and is set to be the first critical minerals deposit to be mined in the Ring of Fire region.

The Ring of Fire comprises 5,000 square kilometres, and is rich in critical minerals such as: high-grade nickel, copper, cobalt, platinum group elements and chromite. Critical minerals are so called because they have specific applications in industry and technology and have few substitutes. They are subject to geopolitical and environmental risk because they are geographically concentrated.

The world’s biggest supplier of Nickel is Indonesia.

Currently, the processing of battery minerals is controlled by China, a country with whom Canada’s relations have been tested in recent years following geopolitical events like the inhumane incarceration of Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Hence, the Ring of Fire is an important component of Canada’s plan to build a new electric vehicle battery industry.

Straub is the CEO of Ring of Fire Metals, Noront’s new brand since Australian company Wyloo Metals acquired Noront in April, 2022. The takeover will allow the Canadian operation to benefit from Wyloo’s experience mining nickel in the Kambalda District of western Australia, Straub said.

Timmins will play an important role, supplying and servicing the project.

The CEO wasted no time addressing the source of controversy surrounding the development: Indigenous engagement. “Today, engaging First Nations is of utter importance to us in order to have a successful and socially acceptable project,” said Straub, adding that their intention for the mine to have a net zero carbon footprint is also required for social acceptability.

Even Ontario’s Natural Resources minister has called the region, made up of wetlands which act as carbon sinks, as a “challenging space.”

Two First Nations, Webequie and Marten Falls, support the project and the building of a road into their territory that will make it possible to mine the Ring of Fire, but will also connect the Nations to the provincial  highway system, bringing economic benefit in its wake, they say. Ring of Fire Metals has signed Memorandums of Understanding with both First Nations. The company has committed to spending over $100 million on Indigenous-led business contracts.

The Eagle’s Nest project is in the James Bay lowlands, about 80 kilometres east of Webeque First Nation, and 120 kilometres northwest of Marten Falls First Nation.

Neskantaga First Nation, located southwest of Eagle’s Nest opposes the project, saying they were never consulted. Premier Doug Ford countered that they never formally requested a meeting.

Further opposition to the Ring of Fire is gathering momentum in the form of a coalition between The Wildlands League and Mushkegowuk Council who have come together to call for a National Marine Conservation Area to be established along the James and Hudson Bay coast.

They argue there is more benefit to be had by focusing on the six large Nickel mining projects in the Timmins and Sudbury area, including the Canada Nickel’s Crawford Project, where there is existing infrastructure. They say the peatlands ecosystem cools the earth by storing carbon, filters fresh water and protects species.

The peatlands, which they call the “breathing lands,” store so much carbon that developing just four per cent of it would reverse the climate change gains Canada has made over the past two decades, says Janet Sumner with the Wildlands League.

Following his presentation to the guests assembled at the Timmins Chamber of Commerce event, The Daily Press asked Straub to respond to these concerns. Straub countered the impact on peatlands of road construction would be minimal.

“The access created by the north-south road is based on eskers that would reduce impact on peatland areas,” he said. Eskers are ridges made of stratified sand and gravel. “Where you’d be crossing peatlands, the construction methods used would not require any excavation of peatlands, they would be constructed as floating roads.”

When it comes to mining, Straub said the Eagle’s Nest deposit is on an esker. “About 85 per cent of the surface infrastructure would be constructed on high ground, on the esker, so only a very small amount of peatlands would be disturbed.”

Straub acknowledged the project could emit 46,000 tons of CO2, but the intent is to offset that with re-established biodiversity areas or rehabilitation of other areas.

The Eagle’s Nest project would make up less than a square kilometre of developed area, he added.

Ring of Fire Metals estimates the total direct and indirect economic impact of the Eagle’s Nest Project on the provincial economy to be 5.1 billion, based on the Ontario Chamber of Commerce 2014 report, “Beneath the Surface.”

Straub estimates the Nickel production from Eagle’s Nest could supply half a million electric vehicles per year, about 15 per cent of the 2030 forecast for the North American EV market.

Eagle’s Nest is currently in the environmental assessment phase. Following completion of a feasibility study and permitting, Straub expects construction to begin in 2027. Webequie First Nation is undertaking the provincial Environmental Assessment and federal Impact Assessment for the Webequie Supply Road Project, an all-season 107 kilometre road that would run from the First Nation to the mineral deposit area near McFaulds Lake.

Public information sessions will be held Oct. 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Cedar Meadows Resort and Spa, 1000 Norman St., Timmins.

Author of the article: Nicole Stoffman

With files from Ron Grech and Naimul Karim

State of Mining