Earlier this week city officials in Sault Ste. Marie celebrated being selected to be the host site of Noront Resources’ ferrochrome production facility.

During the announcement, the city claimed it has the support of local First Nations, but according to one chief, that is not the case.

The day it was revealed that Sault Ste. Marie won the right to host a ferrochrome production facility, city staff sent out  a document outlining the project. The document states the city has letters of support from local first nations, but Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers, says that’s not true.

“Yeah, it was a surprise, because there was no reference to support. It was a package of correspondence that was probably blanketed as being letters of support for the project, but our letter wasn’t in support. It was in regards to a process that has to be followed.” said Sayers.

The city’s mayor, Christian Provenzano, says the letter was given to the city last year, when the bid for the facility was being made.

“Batchewana First Nation gave us a letter. That letter outlines their expectations and we included that in our submission. That’s the letter that Noront has, that’s the letter we have, and that’s the letter we’re talking about. So, we’re kind of using different language when we referred to what it means, but what it does say very clearly is Batchewana has expectations.” said Provenzano.

The city said it would release the letter in question to CTV News if the First Nation agreed, but the chief couldn’t approve that request.  Sayers says his focus is making sure this project will be safe for the land and his community.

“I don’t want to discount the project. We set a bar. We have protection that we need to provide to our relatives and the environment. We have invited in the past and we will continue to invite Noront to our table to meet with our leadership.” said Sayers.

The mayor says the only thing that is official is the fact that Noront wants to build the smelter in the Sault and there’s no way shovels will be in the ground anytime soon. 

“The reality is we do not have any permits or permissions from anybody. This is just started, so now we start the process of seeking permissions and seeking permits and engaging and consultations and working with the stakeholders.” said Provenzano.

In the project outline provided by the City of Sault Ste. Marie, it also says Garden River First Nation supports the smelter.

Chief Syrette wasn’t at the announcement to celebrate the news and when asked for an interview to see if Garden River supports the smelter, he declined to comment saying a release will be coming out soon.