Six First Nation trainees are ready to start work in the mining sector thanks to a partnership program between Matachewan First Nation, Northgate Minerals Corp and Dumas Contracting. The graduates of the Underground Miner Training program, which was provided under the Matachewan Aboriginal Access to Mine Jobs Training Strategy (MAATS), were honoured in a community gathering on May 26 in Matachewan.

This is the second group of trainees to graduate from the MAATS program. The six new graduates will now move on to employment positions under Northgate and Dumas at the Young Davidson mine site in Matachewan. The six graduates are David Batisse, Dustin Roy, John Cloutier and Chad Larkman of Matachewan; Katlin Maurer of Beaverhouse First Nation and Kohl Porter of Mattagami First Nation.

“On behalf of myself and my fellow graduates, I would like to thank Matachewan First Nation, Northgate and Dumas for the valuable training and employment opportunities we have received,” said David Batisse.

The opening and closing prayers were provided by Roberta Oshkawbewisens, a traditional grandmother from Wikwemikong First Nation. Ceremonial drumming and singing to open and close the event was provided by the Matachewan Women’s drum group, composed of Elders Marie Boucher, Vina Hendrix and Gertie Nolan.

“Our graduates here today are exceptionally fortunate in that they are moving onto employment right away. They are not just going onto another job, they are embarking in mining careers. I am very pleased with how well everyone, including Northgate Minerals, Dumas Contracting and Matachewan First Nation, have worked together to provide these graduates with valuable training and employment,” said Anne Batisse, Executive Director of MAATS.

The success of the graduates was based on a program that featured hands-on training by trainer Boyd Wilson, with the support of Northgate management and Dumas personnel, which included Stephen McGinn, Brendan Zuidema, Joe Evans, Jamie Mortson and Bert Gadoury.

“In most training programs, employment is not certain but in this case, all of our graduates have been guaranteed employment with Northgate Minerals or Dumas Contracting. Thanks to the trainees for all their hard work and dedication and, of course, we are grateful to our funding partners for making this possible,” said Jamie Mortson, Manager Safety and Training, Dumas Contracting.

Northgate played an integral role in building a positive and productive relationship with Matachewan in regards to the development of the company’s Young Davidson mine.

“Congratumalations to all the graduates and for everyone involved in getting them here today. We need skilled mining employees. These positions are not easy to fill at a time when there are so many mines developing in the North. We really appreciate the fact that these new employees are coming to us with knowledge through training and they are prepared to go to work,” said Andrew Cormier, Northgate’s Project Manager at the Young Davidson Mine.

Ray Durham, Human Resources Supervisor at Northgate, commended the graduates for their hard work and welcomed them to the Young Davidson mine workforce.

Matachewan Chief Alex Batisse and his council sent along a note of congratumalations to the trainees as did Chris Rockingham, Northgate Minerals on behalf of the MAATS Board of Directors.

Past Chief and Elder Mario Batisse commented on the success of the partnerships in providing opportunities for First Nation people.

“Back when I was Chief we had to work hard just to get a little funding to put our people to work on projects here and there. Those times were tough and it was not easy for First Nation people to find employment. Thanks to the development of these training and employment opportunities with Northgate Mines at their Young Davidson mine, our people are starting rewarding careers in mining,” said Mario Batisse.

The successful graduates participated in this mining career program in preparation for employment at the Young Davidson Mine during its construction phase and for work in mining. Three graduates were hired by Northgate Mines and three by Dumas Construction. This new mining development will provide jobs for 600 people during the two-year construction period and long-term employment for 275 individuals over the 15-year life of the mine. The company is aiming to commission the Young Davidson mine and start gold production in 2012.

During mine development, the company worked closely with the various surrounding communities and in July 2009 signed an Impact and Benefits Agreement (IBA) with Matachewan, a member community of the Wabun Tribal Council. Cooperation and partnership between Northgate, Wabun First Nations, the federal and provincial governments also provided a multi-million dollar training program for Aboriginal people.

The Underground Miner Training was part of MAATS a $4 million initiative that was announced on February 13, 2009 by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) as a three-year partnership strategy. The strategy is supported primarily by HRSDC under the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) program.