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The Lands and Minerals Sector of Natural Resources Canada promotes the participation of Aboriginal communities in minerals and metals activities across Canada by sharing information on Aboriginal-industry leading practices.
The Musselwhite gold mine in northwestern Ontario is a fly-in, fly‑out operation on the southern shore of Opapimiskan Lake, about 480 kilometres (km) north of Thunder Bay in North West Ontario. An all-weather road connects the mine to the community of Pickle Lake, about 200 km to the south. The Musselwhite property is 17,548 hectares, entirely on First Nations land. Since its first commercial production in April 1997, the mine has produced more than 4 million ounces of gold.
Musselwhite was one of the first mines in Ontario to enter into a comprehensive agreement with local First Nations communities, called the Musselwhite Agreement. In September 2001, the Musselwhite mine, the First Nation communities of North Caribou Lake, Cat Lake, Kingfisher Lake and Wunnumin Lake, the Shibogama First Nations Council, and the Windigo First Nations Council renewed the Musselwhite Agreement originally signed in 1996. The agreement sets targets for First Nations employment, opportunities for business development and environmental protection. Under a separate agreement, local trappers are compensated for the loss of harvesting rights within a designated area around the mine. The signatories of the agreement receive revenue sharing based on monthly production rates. The communities decide how the funds are managed.
The agreement also establishes an Environmental Working Committee and a Musselwhite Working Committee to monitor socio-economic matters. Each committee includes community representatives, and the chiefs and mine management meet regularly to monitor implementation of the agreement and resolve disputes. In 2014, through the agreement, signatory communities received more than $7 million, distributed between revenue sharing, implementation funding and environmental funding.
Employment and Training
Of the 680 Goldcorp employees and contractors at the Musselwhite mine, about 19 percent are Indigenous people. The mine has a target of 30 percent employment from the signatory and affiliate communities of Windigo and Shibogama First Nation Councils. At present, 11 percent of the Indigenous workforce comes from these signatory communities, and another 8 percent are Indigenous employees from other communities. Production employees work on a two-week rotation, including underground mine workers, mill operators, maintenance workers, diesel mechanics, electricians, millwrights, assay laboratory workers, warehouse personnel and environmental technologists. The positions vary from entry level to senior positions within operations. The company also supports a pre-trades and apprenticeship program to encourage First Nations involvement.
The mine purchased nearly $16 million in goods and services from companies owned by First Nations businesses in 2014. The larger contracts include the personnel air charter service with Wasaya Airways LP, as well as camp catering and housekeeping services with Windigo Catering Limited Partnership. In 2012, Windigo Catering won the prestigious Skookum Jim Award from the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, in recognition of exceptional achievement in an Indigenous-run service business in the mineral development industry. The Shibogama Health Authority provides nursing care at the mine site, and the Big Beaver House Limited Partnership provides yard services, landfill management and equipment operation on the surface.
Social/Cultural and Community Support
The Musselwhite mine’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides additional social support to employees living in remote communities, including the services of a social worker at the mine about four days per month. In 2006 and again between 2011 and 2014, the Musselwhite mine funded crisis intervention workshops in a local First Nations community affected by tragic loss of life from suicide and house fires. Based on the need, workshops focused on crisis intervention, conflict resolution, stress management, teamwork grief management, drug addiction, healthy parenting, and nutrition and healthy cooking. Employees also manage a recreational committee and take advantage of an on-site gymnasium for floor hockey, volleyball, badminton, basketball, a weight room, saunas, a recreational area and Internet access. Bingo nights are well-attended. In summer, employees have the use of bicycles, fishing boats and kayaks on nearby Opapimiskan Lake. Since 2001, the mine’s major pledges have included $100,000 to the trauma unit and $100,000 to the Exceptional Cancer Care Campaign at Thunder Bay’s Regional Health Sciences Centre and $150,000 to the construction of the Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout.
The Environmental Working Committee consists of representatives from the mine and the signatory communities and meets up to four times yearly to discuss issues such as wildlife management, environmental protection and results of the Environmental Effects Monitoring Program. The Pipestone Environmental Lands and Resources Monitoring Secretariat oversees environmental monitoring at the mine. Indigenous representatives also participate in mine-related monitoring activities including bird and fish studies, field assessment reviews and mitigation measures such as the recovery of a loader that fell through the ice. Local First Nations heritage and cultural sites are also monitored to prevent desecration and disturbance. Because the discharge of effluent is seasonal, the Musselwhite mine holds opening and closing ceremonies for each discharge season. At these, First Nation community representatives offer prayers and blessings and give thanks for a successful season. Indigenous contractors worked on a man-made fish habitat created to compensate for the loss of habitat caused by construction of a tailings impoundment in 1996.
The Musselwhite mine will continue to work with Indigenous communities to help bridge gaps in basic education and training to improve the local labour pool. In January 2014, Goldcorp Musselwhite signed a cooperation agreement with the community of Mishkeegogamang First Nation, located about 220 km south of the mine. The cooperation agreement recognizes the community’s territorial land claim in which nearly 80 percent of Goldcorp’s privately owned transmission line crosses their territory. All the supplies transported by road travel on the public highway that runs through the Mishkeegogamang reserve. The cooperation agreement sets the framework for addressing concerns of environmental protection and community interests in employment and economic development opportunities while recognizing the operations commitments under the existing Musselwhite Agreement.
For more information on the Musselwhite mine, visit the Goldcrop Inc. website or contact the company at 807-928-2200.
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, 2015
Cat. No. M34-27/2015E-PDF (Online)