TORONTO -- Ontario has signed agreements with two Indigenous communities in a move the government says is a step forward in its plans to build road access to the Ring of Fire region.

Premier Doug Ford announced the new deals with the Marten Falls First Nation and Webequie First Nation at a mining conference in Toronto on Monday.

The previous Liberal government had signed deals with three of the nine communities surrounding the Ring of Fire, including Marten Falls and Webequie.

But in August, the Ford government ripped up those deals in favour of pursuing new individual agreements with the nine First Nations.

NDP northern development critic Michael Mantha says ripping up those deals was a step backwards that has further delayed the project.

The region in Northern Ontario holds some of the world's richest deposits of chromite, nickel, copper and platinum -- valued at anywhere from $30 billion to $60 billion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 2, 2020.