Mining companies, government officials and Crees gathered in Mistissinl to talk about the mining industry last month.

Chief Kenny Loon, in his welcoming speech, said mining activities and their effects on Cree lifestyles and the land had been a topic of concern for Crees for some time.

He was later echoed by former O.J. Chief Abel Bosum, who told of his band’s village being forced to relocate seven times in a 60-year period. Bosum pointed out that other resource developments such as clear-cutting also had an impact.

Both men said the time for change had come. Loon said that while Crees may not always share a common perspective with the mining industry on all issues, they both have in common the desire for a more successful economy.

The Aug. 24-26 conference was the first mining conference in Cree land. Companies are currently exploring for potential mines across the Cree territory.

The Troilus Mine owned by Inmet on the Route du Nord was mentioned as a Cree-mining industry model that has worked.

Sam Etapp, a member of the committee implementing the agreement signed with Inmet, talked about the employment the mine has brought to Mistissini, as well as the agreement that respects the land and traditional way of life.

He said 76 of the 294 workers at Troilus are Crees. Last year, contracts awarded to Cree businesses totaled about $4 million. Etapp said this was the result of a desire on the part of Crees and Inmet to make things work.

Inmet Mill Superintendent Yvon Sylvestre said it is important to define a working relationship between two parties. This approach facilitates acceptance of the project and increases economic potential of developing new mines, availability of a good workforce and investment in the mining development by the Native community.

Don MacLeod, Mistissini’s economic development officer, said the conference brought people together who listened to each other.

Jim MacLeod, president of Cree Gold, a Mistissini-based mining company, said the conference was a good way for Crees and the mining industry to sit down and talk in a non-confrontational way. “Companies wanted to know what the trappers wanted to see if they could afford it,” he said.

MacLeod saw a few doors open for his company at the conference. “People were talking and feeling each other out. Mining companies were usually a little hesitant to do business with Natives but I had a few companies comment that I had some interesting properties.”

Cree Gold is looking for joint partnerships similar to the TroiIus-Mistissini Agreement, said MacLeod. He added that it’s easier for the mining companies to get work done in co-ventures with Native companies.

MacLeod said one of Cree Gold’s objectives is to create work for Crees.

“Why shouldn’t it be the Crees? The Cree youth are going to need jobs,” he said.
MacLeod said there would be a lot of spin-off benefits for Cree businesses.