In the past several years, more than 315 agreements have been signed across Canada between resource companies and First Nations and Métis people to provide secure benefits to the communities.
According to Sean Willy, the director of corporate responsibility at Cameco, the partnerships in Northern Saskatchewan have been a benchmark for other companies across the country. “Saskatchewan has always been one of the leaders in Aboriginal engagement. Our model is emulated across the country and around the globe,” he said.
The Saskatoon-based company is one of the world’s largest uranium producers. He said that signing an agreement with both the English River First Nation and the northern Village of Pinehouse in Northern Saskatchewan simply helped solidify an already-strong 25-year relationship.
“They asked if we’d be interested in signing an agreement, and we said, ‘Sure, if you think it would be in the best interests of your communities,'” said Willy. “We wanted to recapture everything we were already doing as partners – basically, we just needed to codify the formal relationship.”
The three-party agreements also include AREVA, a nuclear energy producer and growing presence in the renewable energies sector, also based in Saskatoon.
For the First Nations communities, it was important to have the security of a contract that would define benefits for their members. Mike Natomagan, mayor of Pinehouse and president of Kineepik Métis Local Inc., said the community is striving to be a significant and growing participant in the economy of Northern Saskatchewan and stressed that a strong, mutually supportive relationship with Cameco and AREVA will deliver benefits for many years to come, and ensure that Pinehouse has an even stronger voice in terms of protecting the environment for future generations.
“This agreement will provide long-term benefits to our community and gives us to ability to plan for the future,” said Natomagan. “It allows us to expand on our strong mining culture and do it our way.” The potential value of the agreement is estimated to be approximately $200 million over the next decade, mainly through employment income and business development, but also through development in the community. The agreement also confirms an ongoing commitment to protect the health and safety of Pinehouse residents.
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