Ontario rips up Ring of Fire deal with First Nations to pursue bilateral talks

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SAULT STE MARIE, Ont. — Ontario is ripping up an agreement with First Nations on building road access to the Ring of Fire region in favour of pursuing individual deals with the nine communities.

Greg Rickford, the minister in charge of the file, announced today that the new approach will mean the government can address unique community needs and opportunities with individual First Nation communities.

The previous Liberal government had signed a regional framework agreement two years ago with three of the nine First Nations in the region after then-premier Kathleen Wynne warned that she would just move to bilateral talks if there was no progress on an overall deal.

The provincial government has been talking with the chiefs of the Matawa First Nations for years, since it pledged $1 billion in 2014 to fund infrastructure into the area about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, Ont.

The region holds one of the world’s richest deposits of chromite — used to make stainless steel — as well as nickel, copper and platinum, valued at anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion.

Noront Resources, the major claim holder in the Ring of Fire region, has its own exploration and project advancement agreement with one of the communities, Marten Falls.