For the past two summers, Keri Etherington has headed out into the bush in the James Bay Lowlands to collect native plant seeds.
“My favourite part of the job was being out on the land every day,” said the environmental technician student, who was raised in Moosonee. “To get to our seed collection spots, we would have to use the boat, helicopter, or four-wheeler, so this was always fun for me. If we were lucky, we would be able to see wildlife.”
The summer program is part of a joint project between De Beers’s Victor Mine and Laurentian University’s School of the Environment, to make native plant species seed available for the restoration of land around the mine.
Etherington qualified for the program since she was part of the Fort Albany First Nation. The program is specifically for members of surrounding First Nations communities. The project is committed to fulfilling environmental commitments to these surrounding communities.
“The mine is built on Attawapiskat land, and it’s about positive post-legacy,” said Katherine Garrah, a reclamation ecologist for the mine. “It’s one of the agreements we have with the traditional First Nations around Attawapiskat, meeting biodiversity targets, and gaining the security we’ll have with genetically appropriate plants.”
Laurentian’s lead on the project, Daniel Campbell, said most mines bring in a non-native Ministry of Transportation (MTO) seed mix designed for roadwork recovery. However, there is an increasing governmental and scientific push for native plant species.
“It’s about pride in our own landscape and being aware that imported species can get away from us,” said Campbell. Native plant species are more likely to thrive in a climate in which they were bred.
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