A “Trojan Horse” in the Ring of Fire

MiningWatch Canada says that despite promises of a small footprint, Australian miner Wyloo Metal’s proposed Eagle’s Nest mine in the Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario is “a Trojan Horse.” This first nickel mine in the area would open up the rest of the carbon-rich peatland region to destructive, open-pit chromite mining, the NGO says.

Wyloo plans to take nickel ore from the mine and refine it at a smelter it would build in Sudbury.

Mining in the Ring of Fire has been opposed by local Indigenous communities and environmental groups.

Scientists at Wildlife Conservation Society Canada have calculated that if just three per cent of the Ring of Fire is developed, it would result in about 62 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent because of greenhouse gases released from the damaged peatland. Canada’s emissions were 708 megatonnes in 2022.

Two nearby First Nations, Webequie and Marten Falls, are leading the construction of all-season roads to the Ring of Fire, including to Wyloo’s proposed mine, which would also connect the First Nations communities to southern Ontario. But Neskantaga First Nation, whose homelands include the Ring of Fire, maintains that the Ring of Fire will not be mined without their consent — which they haven’t given. Their stance is being supported by four other Northern Ontario First Nations that are calling for an end to mining exploration on their lands: Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows), Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, Wapekeka and Muskrat Dam.

Though Wyloo has said that the nickel from the Eagle’s Nest mine is critical for decarbonization, it might not be. The amount of nickel Canada needs to mine depends on Canadians’ transportation choices. A 2023 report from the Climate and Community Project, “Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining,” looked at expected lithium demand for EV batteries.
They found that with three policy interventions — decreasing car dependency, shrinking the size of EV batteries, and recycling battery minerals — the U.S. EV market can reduce its lithium demand by up to 92 per cent in 2050, as compared to the most lithium-intensive scenario.