The community of Waswanipi, the Grand Council of the Crees and GéoMégA Resources gathered the media at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Montreal on October 20 to announce and sign an exclusive pre-development deal for a rare-earths mining project.

According to GéoMégA, the discovery of Total Rare Earths Oxides (TREO) at the Montviel site is the third largest outside of China in the world. In that these rare-earth oxides are essential to the development of clean technologies for the 21st century, they will have a significant value in the market place.

But, this deal is significant not just about what the rare-earth oxides will do for clean energy as the Waswanipi community is quite excited about what the development of the project will be able to do for the people while at the same time working the land in a way that is acceptable to the Crees.

“Our community and the Council of the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi are eager to collaborate with the mineral exploration and mining industry. We recognize that this industry has a corporate social responsibility to follow in the footsteps of GéoMégA. The signing of this agreement ensures that there will be meaningful participation by our local members without sacrificing sustainability. It is an important step for all parties,” said Waswanipi Chief Paul Gull.

Gull went on to state that the community is quite eager to create wealth for the Cree people and their partners, but they would not be willing to do it at the expense of sustainability.

“All the parties must mutually recognize the partnerships that have been created by respecting the environment and sustainable management,” Gull said.

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come was present at the deal signing on behalf of the Grand Council of the Crees/Cree Regional Authority.

Reflecting on the long way Crees have come since development began in Eeyou Istchee decades ago, Coon Come expressed his delight at how business deals like this one show that there is no longer an “us vs. them” divide between Crees and developers.

Once more, Coon Come praised the deal because it recognized the Cree Mining Policies that have been laid out by the Grand Council on behalf of all Crees so that sustainable development and the sharing of benefits are at the forefront of this partnership. And so, a project where respect for the land and the people involves the consent of the tallymen and also offers strong economic possibilities for Natives and non-Natives in the region is what has come out of this carefully negotiated predevelopment deal, pleasing everyone.

“What I like about this agreement is that it goes beyond the letters of intent and memorandums of understanding and goes directly to a pre-development framework. That in itself sends signals to the mining proponents within the region that we continue to respect the rights that are provided for in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and respects the Paix des Braves principals of where the government is supposed to encourage employment opportunities and joint ventures and the building of relationships.

“A pre-development agreement is the basis to build upon and of course in the future we are well aware that this proponent and its partners are still subject to a rigorous Environmental Impact Assessment and that is the correct way to do it. It makes it a lot easier when you are working together and you are working partners and when you are involved with the tallymen who are directly affected,” said Coon Come.

As it is very early on for this project, according to Simon Britt, President and Chief Executive Officer of GéoMégA, it will be some time before the Montviel site sees a production phase. For the time being the Environmental Impact Assessments as well as other studies will be the project’s focus.

The Crees will also have an opportunity to be part of this process.