With the looming gold mining project on Wemindji territory getting closer to moving from the advanced exploration phase into becoming a full-fledged mine, one question that has been on the minds of many Crees is how to maximize the economic spinoffs from the project for those who live on the territory?
This is why Chief Rodney Mark and the local entities from Wemindji have been in close contact with other entities throughout the Cree nation, discussing how Crees will be able to benefit most from the upcoming contracts while remaining competitive for its client, Goldcorp.
Finally, during the Wemindji Golf Tournament in Val-d’Or June 11, a special deal was signed that will usher the Cree communities and other participating entities into a golden era in terms of booming business and economic prosperity.
“This deal is a uniting of all of the Cree business entities from the Cree Nation of Wemindji as well as some other Cree regional entities,” explained Christian Sinclair, Director of Development, Marketing and Promotion for the Cree Construction and Development Company (CCDC).
According to the Cree Regional Economic Enterprises Company (CREECO), the deal was signed between Mark Wadden, President of Tawich Development Corporation, Jack R. Blacksmith, President of the Board of Directors for CCDC and catering company Gestion ADC, Reggie Mark, President of Vieux Comptoir Construction, Danny Tomatuk, President of KEPA Transport and Gilbert Georgekish, President of Tawich Construction Inc.
“This makes it much easier for us to work together as Cree people in terms of the contracts that have opened up with the Éléonore Project (the Goldcorp mine). This is a really positive situation between the Cree community and companies like CCDC and Gestion ADC. It is very workable situation, and we are happy with it,” explained Blacksmith.
According to Blacksmith, the actual signing was a celebration of a goal achieved. Since all of the parties with vested interests were together for Wemindji’s annual golf tournament, it was the perfect opportunity to take a few minutes and seal the deal.
“My guys at CCDC and Gestion ADC had been working with them to develop the wording of that agreement and it was completed that night and so we signed it at the golf course. There were about 10 of us in the room and we signed it and shook hands.
“I am looking forward to this project in the respect that we will be working with the community that is being affected by it and I am glad that we will be working in this community so that we don’t step on each other’s toes. I think it is a good way to do business – Cree to Cree,” said Blacksmith.
But, beyond simply spreading the wealth among the Crees, there is also the hope that this deal may serve as a model for other major natural-resource development deals on Cree territory as Premier Charest’s Plan Nord for northern development rolls out over the next 25 years.
“This is a historic and visionary leadership by the community’s Chief and Council to be able to set this precedent for Cree involvement in all aspect of the new developments. This sets the precedent for all developments related to the Plan Nord,” said Sinclair.
But, this signing doesn’t mean that every deal or business for the mine will automatically go to the Crees.
“Within this model, once it goes into effect based on the contracts that will be issued by the developer, Goldcorp and Opinaca Mines, this now allows the Cree entities to be able to bid on those contracts that are released and up to one third of the bidders have to be majority Cree owned. This ensures that we are involved in the bidding process. It does not necessarily guarantee us work, but it forces us to be competitive,” said Sinclair.
According to Wadden, Goldcorp is very satisfied with this new deal because not only does it ensure Cree participation, something that has been part of the development plan all along, but, through the bidding process, Goldcorp will be assured that it will be getting good value for the contracts awarded.
“If Tawich or CCDC were to acquire a contract and they needed resources, such as manpower or equipment, the first right to refusal would be Tawich Construction or Tawich Development or Gestion ADC or KEPA. If they need a loader, a bulldozer or a shovel, if we don’t have this already, then it goes outside of us. But, this does not mean that the door is shut for other joint ventures or subcontractors, but we will have the first say. In a way, this is to maximize what we have in resources for the Cree entities and companies to capitalize on all of the benefits,” said Wadden.
According to Wadden, the project is now in its late exploration phase and will hopefully receive its Certificate of Authorization this fall. From there on in, if everything goes to plan, there will be a construction period of three to four years before the actual mine is opened for business.