Band hopes joint venture will help community prosper
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Long-term training and employment opportunities for members of the small Marcel Colomb First Nation have been few and far between since the band was officially recognized in 1999.
But it is hoped that a joint venture agreement just signed with a Saskatoon construction company, Threeosix Industrial Services Inc., will help the community expand its capacity for economic development and employment.
The most obvious target for the joint venture will be to bid on work that will arise as Alamos Gold Inc. continues its development of a potentially large gold property in Lynn Lake.
The Toronto-based mining company is in the permitting process and does not have a specific timetable as to if or when it might construct a producing mine in Lynn Lake.
But with the joint venture in place, officials from the band and Threeosix say it will allow residents in the area — that has not seen any mining activity for close to 40 years — time to get ready.
If the project does proceed, a 2017 feasibility study done by Alamos on the Lynn Lake gold project indicated that it would require more than $600 million of capital investment.
Douglas Hart, a former chief of Marcel Colomb First Nation (MCFN) and the lead negotiator on the Threeosix agreement, said, “The environmental assessment process is almost coming to a conclusion. We’ll probably have a better idea come spring time when the actual construction will begin.”
Christian Sinclair, the former chief of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, helped MCFN with the Threeosix agreement.
He said that while there will be some public tenders on some of the work the band will encourage the company to directly negotiate some contracts with local participants, similar to what Manitoba Hydro did for the construction of the Keeyask generating station.
“We are talking about getting the mining company to provide us with our fair share and it’s not just crumbs like in the past, or nothing in some cases,” he said.
Alamos has already made it clear that it is committed to establishing strong participation with Indigenous and local citizens with training and employment and subcontracting opportunities.
Rebecca Thompson, a spokeswoman for the company said the project is currently in the federal and provincial permitting process.
“The Lynn Lake Gold Project remains an important part of our long-term growth story with the capacity to increase our overall production to approximately 800,000 ounces per year, and will be a driver of positive economic investment in Northern Manitoba,” she said.
The MCFN has had a tough go of it in the past. Hart remembers the days of the “Tent Village” where members of the band lived in tents on the outskirts of Lynn Lake and were completely shut out of participation in economic activity when a gold mine operated there in the 1970s and ’80s, even losing their hunting and fishing rights on their ancestral lands.
“When the original mining company came into the territory our people were left on the outskirts of the town scrounging to survive while the mining company and municipality prospered within our territory,” he said.
Scott Longmuir president and CEO of Threeosix Industrial, said the MCFN agreement will be the seventh his company has engaged in.
Most recently, a joint venture it has with the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan has won contracts with Foran Mining Co. related to land clearing, earthworks and civil construction on Foran’s McIlvenna Bay Project in Saskatchewan.
“Our intent with MCFN is to affix ourselves there as a resource for them to build capacity and capitalize on any and all construction opportunities in their in traditional territories,” Longmuir said.
“We feel pretty passionate about our ability to compete in open market with a First Nation partner, building capacity all the while, creating opportunities for employment and training and trying to build some careers,” he said.
The construction of a mine, even when there is legacy assets in place like there is in Lynn Lake, takes more than a few months. Longmuir said it could be the case that some First Nation trades people could start as apprentices and end the project as journeymen.
In a December news release, John A. McCluskey, president and CEO of Alamos, said, exploration in the region subsequent to the 2017 feasibility study suggest a strong pipeline of other regional targets, which, “highlight the significant potential within the district and upside beyond what was outlined in the feasibility study.”
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.