TORONTO – Premier Doug Ford and Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, joined Chief Bruce Achneepineskum of Marten Falls First Nation and Chief Cornelius Wabasse of Webequie First Nation to celebrate a historic milestone to unlocking jobs and economic opportunities in the Ring of Fire region.
Today, Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations announced they will be submitting a Terms of Reference for the proposed Northern Road Link Environmental Assessment. This proposed road is the final piece of critical road infrastructure needed to ensure reliable, all season road access to potential mining sites in the Ring of Fire and connect both First Nations communities to Ontario’s highway network.
“Our government is connecting industries, resources and workers in the north to the auto and EV battery manufacturers in the south so we can unlock the full economic potential of northern Ontario,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Today is a landmark day as we work side by side with our Indigenous partners to ensure that communities around the Ring of Fire have access to the roads needed to not only support development but also improve access to every-day essentials like fuel, groceries and health care. We’re getting it done.”
Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations are co-leading the planning of the Northern Road Link project as part of a historic partnership with the province. Ontario has committed close to $1 billion to support critical legacy infrastructure such as the planning and construction of an all‑season road network, and investments in high-speed internet, road upgrades and other community supports.
“Our government is committed to partnerships with First Nations communities to build legacy infrastructure projects that will become the Corridor to Prosperity,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. “Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations are leading the Environmental Assessments because they share a strong vision for sustainable development and prosperity for their communities. I want to congratulate both communities for their extraordinary leadership and for achieving another important milestone for this incredible opportunity.”
The critical mineral deposits found in the Ring of Fire would help create unprecedented economic prosperity across the Far North. Connecting the mineral rich opportunities in the Ring of Fire with manufacturing sectors in Southern Ontario would support the province in becoming a leading producer across North America of the critical minerals needed for electric vehicles and a clean economy.
“Our partnership sets a new precedence in the region on Indigenous proponency,” said Chief Bruce Achneepineskum of the Marten Falls First Nation. “As we prepare to submit the Terms of Reference for the Northern Road Link project it is important to remember why we are here and what this represents. We are leading the Northern Road Link because the project is in our traditional territory and we are exercising our right to self-determination. This represents a potentially bright future for our future generations, for our neighbours, and for the region.”
“Webequie First Nation is proud of this important milestone in our collaboration with Marten Falls First Nation,” said Chief Cornelius Wabasse of the Webiquie First Nation. “The NRL project is an Indigenous-led environmental assessment, which integrates Indigenous-principles with the provincial process. We look forward to discuss the NRL project with our Indigenous neighbours and key stakeholders.”
Key milestones for Ring of Fire include:
- In 2019, Ontario ended the former regional framework agreement and pursued bilateral agreements to meet the specific needs of First Nation communities.
- Ontario invested $30 million in the Matawa broadband project to secure stable telecommunications for Far North First Nations communities.
- In 2020, Premier Doug Ford, Greg Rickford, Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, Chief Achneepineskum and Chief Wabasse signed an agreement to support infrastructure development in the Ring of Fire.
- Ontario committed close to $1 billion to support critical legacy infrastructure such as the planning and construction of the all‑season road network and other projects, including investments in high-speed internet, road upgrades and community supports.
- In 2021, the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks approved the Terms of References for the Marten Falls First Nation Community Access Road and the Webequie First Nation Supply Road Environmental Assessments.
- In 2022, Marten Falls and Webequie First Nations announced their intention to submit a Terms of Reference for the Northern Road Link Environmental Assessment.
Ontario’s Ring of Fire region is one of the most promising mineral development opportunities for critical minerals in the province. It’s located approximately 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay and covers about 5,000 square kilometres.