PATUANAK, Sask. – Uranium giants Cameco and Areva have reached a $600-million deal with a Saskatchewan First Nation that supports their mining operations and drops a lawsuit over land near the proposed Millennium project.
The collaborative agreement is with the English River First Nation, a band of more than 1,000 people who live on seven small reserves in the province’s northwest. Another 400 people live off-reserve.
“This introduces a level of stability and predictability around employment, business training and community investment and environmental stewardship,” Cameco vice-president Gary Merasty said Thursday.
“This is a little more certainty around project development. If there is a lawsuit hanging over, you know that introduces a level of risk to the project.” A formal signing ceremony is to be held Friday in the community of Patuanak, about 600 kilometres north of Saskatoon.
Most of the money is to flow to the First Nation over 10 years through contracts with band-owned businesses and wages to band members, who are expected to work at the mines and on community development projects.
There are also to be direct payments to the community for education, health, sports and recreation programs.
English River vice-chief Marie Black said the deal will help the Dene band become more self-sufficient and less reliant on the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
“It is very, very important that we go ahead and work with industry. This is for jobs,” Black said.
Some English River members are worried about the environmental consequences of more uranium mining in the area. They say a decision on the deal was made by band council without a community vote.
The agreement states the deal will be worth significantly more to the band if Cameco Corp.’s (TSX:COO) Millennium project goes ahead. The proposed underground mine, which still requires environmental approval, is estimated to contain more than 50 million pounds of uranium.
Saskatoon-based Cameco, the largest uranium producer in the world, plans to submit its final environmental impact application for Millennium to regulators later this year.
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