Document Type


Publication Date


Source Publication

Jennifer Sankey et al, Operationalizing Indigenous-led Impact Assessment (report prepared for the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, 2023) 30pp.


Ring of Fire; Indigenous-led Impact Assessment; Indigenous Law; Impact Assessment; Environmental Assessment; Mining; Extraction


In 2007, a significant mineral deposit dubbed the “Ring of Fire” was discovered in the boreal peatlands in Treaty No.9 territory in the far north of Ontario. The original project proposal submitted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency was for a chromite mine and an associated infrastructure corridor to connect the remote location to the provincial high-way system. As years went by without progress on the regulatory approvals, the proponent sold its claims at a loss. In the period that followed, Ontario negotiated with the Matawa First Nations (the nine most proximate First Nations) who were, as a united block, claiming to hold inherent jurisdiction and governing authority over their homelands in the Ring of Fire region, an area exclusively occupied by Indigenous peoples. Those negotiations soon broke down and Ontario pivoted to bilateral negotiations with individual “mining-ready” First Nations. Deal-making from that approach has produced two First Nations willing to act as proponents for all-season roads along the same corridor as the mining road originally proposed. Three road segments became subject to both provincial and federal environmental/impact assessments. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada also initiated a Regional Assessment for the Ring of Fire region, which was intended to examine the cumulative impacts of all the expected changes in the region brought about by opening up the far north. Each of these assessments is now mired in controversy about who holds jurisdiction, who can provide or withhold their consent to major projects in the region, and whose law applies when environmental/impact assessments are conducted. This case study illustrates how difficult it can be to apply a term such as “Indigenous-led impact assessment” in a context of overlapping territories, competing authorities, and multiple legal orders.