The future is looking as bright as gold for the Cree Nation of Wemindji. On February 21, Wemindji, along with the Grand Council of the Crees and the Cree Regional Authority, signed an agreement with Goldcorp to expand the Éléonore Gold Project. The expansion will result in the creation of a new gold mine near the community. The deal includes a Category II land acquisition, fixed payments to the community, and increased collaboration between Goldcorp and the Cree Nation.

With so much at stake in this project, every conceivable issue had to be addressed and agreed upon by the community, which confirmed the deal on January 26. After the Wemindji approved the deal, it was unanimously accepted by the Grand Council and the CRA on February 3.

Based in Vancouver and being one of the fastest-growing gold producers in the world with assets all over North and South America, Goldcorp is a viable partner to have working around your community when you make the right deal, which seems to have happened in Wemindji.

The benefits for Wemindji and the surrounding communities are numerous with the most obvious one being the creation of jobs with long-term potential. In time, this project will make an impact on the high employment rates that are the norm in the far North.

According to Mark Wadden, Wemindji’s Liason Officer on the Éléonore project, the community is already involved. “We were part of something right from the beginning. We’re not trying to knock on doors after everything has been signed. We, the Cree, were part of the development from the start. We are actually helping them plan the mine itself.”

Wadden pointed out that Tawich, the local Cree construction company,  already is working on a big contract. “Tawich is doing the underground explorations right now. Tawich Construction has about 80% Cree people on the site. Just to give you an idea, when we were building the wastepad we had about 85% Crees working on that contract and they [filled positions] from top management to the truck drivers. Of course, some people we had to bring in, like engineers for technical expertise. But for the most part it’s all Cree.”

Along with jobs comes a potential economic boom as there are business opportunities for the locals to take advantage of. This will see an increase in the financial well-being of the community as a whole. In order to accommodate the new mine, there will also be a growth in roads and infrastructure. All of which will remain long after the mine is closed up in the distant future. All of this bodes well for the future of Wemindji.

While the economy in southern Quebec is slowing down, the North, on the other hand, is experiencing an explosive growth in the raw resource industry. The development of the area has recently become a top priority for the Quebec government after its announcement of the Plan Nord on May 9. It’s also no surprise that the ones who will gain the most from the Plan are the mining companies which will receive an estimated $33 billion in investment.

By Akiva Levitas

Along with the business agreement, Goldcorp has also taken it upon itself to ensure the mine lives up to environmental standards not only of Quebec and Canada, but of the Cree Nation Mining Policy. The acceptance by Goldcorp to adhere to this policy is an important precedent for any future development in this industry.

The land, which is the focal point for the deal, was the trapline of local tallyman Michael Mayappo. In an interview with CBC North, Mayappo said the decision was very easy for him to make. With all the benefits gained, it’s no wonder why. Goldcorp has stated that it will be doing its utmost to safeguard the environment and the health of the local community. That being said, there is no way of looking into the future to see what problems may occur, however small the chances.

Taking all of this into consideration, the community of Wemindji, as well the Cree Nation as a whole, will be enjoying the fruits of this deal for many years to come. The opportunities in employment and education will guarantee that not only will the current generation reap the benefits, but future ones will continue benefitting. The Éléonore Gold Project can only grow now that there is in effect a partnership between the Cree of Eeyou Istchee and Goldcorp ensuring both parties a lasting golden age.