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February 11, 2014
The Wood Buffalo Métis Corporation (“Wood Buffalo”) has entered into a joint venture agreement dated effective January 31, 2014 with Athabasca Minerals Inc. for the purposes of exploring for, developing and marketing aggregates, including industrial minerals such as granite, dolomite, limestone and silica sand from within the boundaries of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
Wood Buffalo consists of the Fort Chipewyan Métis Local 125, the McKay Métis Community (Local 63), Fort McMurray Métis Local 1935, and Willow Lake Métis Local 780.
Athabasca Minerals Inc. is a Canadian mineral exploration and management company with operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta and its head office in Edmonton, Alberta. The Company’s focus is to explore, develop and manage mineral resources that exist in north-eastern Alberta. The Company currently operates the Susan Lake Aggregate Operation, the largest open pit gravel pit in Canada, and holds Alberta Metallic and Industrial Mineral Permits on 511,073 hectares (1,262,889 acres) of land in the Fort McMurray region.
According to the agreement, Athabasca has the exclusive support of Wood Buffalo to drill, explore, produce and market Aggregates for a period of ten years with an option to renew the term, upon mutual agreement of the parties, for an additional ten years. The Wood Buffalo Métis communities and their businesses will be given fair and equitable consideration by Athabasca, with respect to portions of the work and services required to be performed during the term and the Agreement encourages and promotes the participation of Members in employment, ranging from labour to management. In addition, Wood Buffalo will assist Athabasca with the marketing of aggregates produced within the boundaries of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and will provide equipment along with qualified members to Athabasca’s workforce at competitive industry rates.
“We are very pleased to enter into a joint venture agreement with Wood Buffalo, whose Members have legal interests in traditional lands in Métis communities in Northeast Alberta.” said Dom Kriangkum, President and CEO of the Corporation. “To reach this Agreement with four Métis communities is a historic event for Athabasca. This has the potential to generate significant opportunity in the region for Aggregates and industrial minerals. This Agreement also demonstrates our commitment to the environment and respect for the rights and traditional way of life of the Métis communities.”
“Athabasca Minerals is a great community partner,” said Ron Quintal, President of Wood Buffalo. “Our Métis Aboriginal community members are very excited about the potential level of opportunity that this Joint Venture Agreement brings.”
This a second agreement that Athabasca has entered into with Métis communities. The first agreement was a Memorandum of Understanding between the Corporation and Métis Nation of Alberta Association Lakeland Local Council (Local 1909).
MNC President Clément Chartier, in attendance at the signing ceremony, congratulated the Métis of Wood Buffalo on their latest achievement:
“Having had the honor of participating in a number of events of the Métis communities in this region during the past few years, I can attest to their strong entrepreneurial spirit and drive as well as to their strong commitment to Métis culture, solidarity and our rights”, said President Chartier. “The result has been Athabasca Mineral’s business partnership with the Wood Buffalo Métis and its recognition of Métis rights and legal interest in our traditional lands.”
For President Chartier, the Joint Venture Agreement also speaks to the need for governments to start seriously addressing the Métis rights agenda:
“On the same day of the agreement’s signing, the Wood Buffalo Métis leaders joined the MNC and the Métis leadership from northwestern Saskatchewan in an assessment of how the Métis rights agenda must be advanced to ensure more effective participation in major economic projects in our homeland.
It became evident that in north-eastern Alberta, government has dropped the ball. Wood Buffalo Métis leaders cited numerous examples of this: the cancellation of the interim Métis province-wide harvesting agreement with the MNA by the Stelmach government; the failure to meaningfully address Métis constitutional rights in regulatory processes; the continued absence of a Métis Consultation Policy which will define for both industry and the Métis how consultation should proceed; and the lack of government support to ensure Métis businesses are able to benefit from new economic development opportunities in the region.
Through the MNC work with the federal government and the provinces on the development of a long term Métis economic development strategy, we are trying to impress upon Ottawa and Alberta that the recognition and accommodation of Métis rights is an engine of rather than impediment to economic development. The conclusion of this important joint venture agreement speaks to that point. It is time for government to get behind us.”