Boreal Forest on Slate Island in Ontario. © Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace
© Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace

Osgoode Hall Law School’s Environmental Justice & Sustainability Clinic research into Noront Resources Ltd. shows that the junior mining firm has not disclosed risks to its business stemming from significant Indigenous opposition to its flagship project in its most recent annual reports, annual information forms, management discussions and news releases.

“Indigenous opposition, and the regulatory risk it poses, can have a material impact,” said Dr. Dayna Nadine Scott, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and Co-Director of the Clinic. “If known, First Nation opposition to projects should be disclosed to investors. Companies should not be cherry-picking information and only mentioning relationships with communities that support their projects. That’s why we are urging Ontario regulators to conduct an investigation into Noront’s disclosures in the Ring of Fire, where Indigenous interests are significant and the communities are divided.”

Just as competing offers to buy Noront by two major mining companies, BHP and Wyloo Metals, are bringing increased attention to the company, Osgoode Hall Law School’s Environmental Justice & Sustainability Clinic, Greenpeace Canada, the Council of Canadians and MiningWatch Canada last week wrote to the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), Ontario’s corporate regulator, asking for an investigation into the adequacy of Indigenous risk disclosure by Noront.

The submission emphasizes that Noront should disclose any internal assessments it has made regarding First Nation opposition to its business as material risks to investors, in accordance with Canadian securities law.

Osgoode Hall Law School’s Environmental Justice & Sustainability Clinic, who has been working with Neskantaga First Nation on research related to the Ring of Fire environmental assessments over several years, leads the coalition and conducted the research and analysis into Noront.

“In our research, we found deficiencies in Noront’s disclosures in relation to material facts and material changes in the extent of Indigenous opposition to its ongoing plans and activities in the Ring of Fire,” said Professor Scott. “It appears that Noront failed to inform investors about the significant extent of Indigenous dissatisfaction in the region.”

Ali Naraghi, Legal Counsel for Greenpeace Canada stated that, “Greenpeace Canada stands in solidarity with Neskantaga First Nation and supports its inherent right to land, resources, self-determination and governance. This includes the right to oppose any mining development on Neskantaga land that poses a threat to the community’s way of life and culture, which are inseparable from a healthy environment. I urge the Ontario Securities Commission to conduct a thorough and prompt investigation into Noront’s disclosure obligations to investors regarding Indigenous opposition to mining in their lands.”

“Studies have found that there are substantial investment risks where mining companies have not faced up to Indigenous opposition to their projects,” said Jamie Kneen, spokesperson for MiningWatch Canada. “In this era of burgeoning investor concern for environmental, social, and governance factors, companies cannot be selective in their disclosure, and the OSC needs to be much more diligent in enforcing its own regulations.”