A First Nation-owned construction company is cutting its teeth on a new gold mine project under development in northwestern Ontario.
Onikaajigan Construction Limited Partnership is running a 600-man camp for the construction workforce that’s building New Gold’s Rainy River open-pit gold mine, 65 kilometres northwest of Fort Frances.
It’s a temporary work camp at this point, said Onikaajigan’s general partner, Dean Bethune, with the eventual aim of transitioning it into a slightly smaller version since New Gold hopes to source most of its permanent mining workforce of 600 locally instead of flying them in.
The Atkinson Road camp in Chapple Township, which is five kilometres from the mine property, is a typical work camp setup with kitchen facility, recreation centre and portable dorms, soon to number 15 as the construction workforce at the mine begins to peak to between 750 and 800 people.
Of the total camp staff of 56, about 70 to 80 per cent is Aboriginal labour, including the camp management, maintenance and security attendants.
Onikaajigan incorporated about two-and-half-years ago to provide economic and employment opportunities for First Nation members in mining. There is no president as it is run under a partnership of three very progressive owners.
Onikaajigan — which Bethune said roughly translates in Ojibway to “design-build” — is a three-way ownership group involving Naicatchewenin and Rainy River First Nations (45 per cent each) and Saulteaux Consulting and Engineering (10 per cent).
The limited partnership models are pretty standard business arrangements for First Nations to provide tax breaks and limited liability of the partners.
Naicatchewenin and Rainy River First Nations signed an impact-benefit agreement with New Gold, which included overseeing the camp operation.
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