Partnership tees up two First Nations for Jansen mine work
- NC Raine
Two Saskatchewan First Nations are taking action now to get in on the jobs to be had in the continuing construction of the massive new BHP Jansen potash mine.
Fishing Lake First Nation and Beardy's and Okemasis Cree Nation (BOCN) have signed a memorandum with Ontario-based Bird Construction to seek contracts with the mine located about 160 km southeast of Saskatoon.
“It's a partnership, a joint venture into the construction world. We are one of the First Nations in the catchment of the BHP Jansen mine, so we needed a big partner to join us to make us stronger, as we go through the bidding process,” said Chief Edwin Ananas of BOCN.
“Our main vision is creating employment for our communities, from the labour force right to administration. We want to be able to offer that training to our membership in both communities,” Ananas said.
The Australian company BHP Billiton recently approved $7.5 billion in capital expenditures for the next stage of the project, of what is planned to be the largest potash producing mine in the world. Construction is expected to take another six years, with mining targeted for 2027.
Having agreed to work together, Fishing Lake, BOCN and Bird Construction are working on a formal joint venture agreement, limited partnership, in which the two First Nations will be 51 percent owners, and Bird 49 percent, said Rebecca Kragnes, Indigenous business relations manager at Bird Construction.
“Bird is committed to building respectful relationships where we work with the Indigenous communities that are impacted by the work we do,” Kragnes said.
“(We are) finding those business opportunities for the communities impacted by our work, and building meaningful relationships that lead to employment and community engagement and full participation by the Indigenous communities in the projects,” she said.
A Bird steering committee has been established to seek collaboration opportunities at the Jansen mine, she said. The company has also established training-to-employment working groups in both communities to prepare potential employees for jobs at the mine.
As contracts have yet to be awarded, the full nature of the efforts are yet to be known but Fishing Lake Chief Derek Sunshine is optimistic.
“There's a big opportunity for a lot of jobs. They say there's seven years of construction at Jansen – that could lead to a lot of jobs in our nation and surrounding area,” he said.
Fishing Lake First Nation is about 100 kilometres east of the mine, on the other side of the Quill Lakes. Sunshine said that after so much waiting, the community is encouraged by the developments with the mine.
“BHP was all talk over the last 10 years, then it came to a standstill. Knowing they got the go-ahead is very encouraging for us,” said Sunshine.
“There's a lot of opportunities there, and we have to make the most of them, rather than waiting for them to come knocking on our door.”