Wallbridge Mining Company signed a pre-development agreement (PDA) with the Cree Nation Government, Grand Council of the Crees, Waskaganish and Washaw Sibi in Gatineau August 3, paving the way for the company to develop gold mines throughout northern Quebec.
Wallbridge has identified up to 3.6 million ounces of gold valued at over $8 billion at two mining sites about 150km south of Waskaganish. The centre of the Fenelon claim is near the Kawadjiwag Rapids off Highway 810, west of Matagami. The company has another project at the nearby Martinière property, for a total of 910 square kilometres of mining rights.
The PDA means that the signatories agreed to “promote a cooperative and mutually respectful relationship concerning the exploration and pre-development activities of Wallbridge,” according to a statement. The agreement claims it provides for “enhanced Cree participation in business and employment opportunities” while promising an awareness program and cultural centre to educate workers about Indigenous culture and realities.
The parties also agreed to cooperate in all social and environmental impact studies while it “contemplates” an Impact and Benefit Agreement once the economic viability of the project can be demonstrated.
“This agreement demonstrates what can be achieved by mining companies through meaningful engagement and collaboration with Cree communities,” Waskaganish Chief Clarke Shecapio stated. “It also highlights the milestones that can be reached when two Cree First Nations work together to protect and advance Cree interests on our territory.”
Shecapio added, “Our relationship with Wallbridge and the Cree Nation of Washaw Sibi has not only generated substantial economic benefits, but has also allowed for the inclusion of important Cree environmental and conservation concerns into the way in which mining operations are carried out.”
Wallbridge says it has met weekly with local First Nations leaders and tallymen, conducted site visits, and provided project update bulletins. They also consulted with the Algonquin community of Pikogan (Abitibiwinni), which is located near the proposed mine.
Bob MacDonald, General Manager of Mining Operations for Wallbridge, said the company’s philosophy is to employ local Indigenous workers as much as possible, while developing equitable relationships with local communities.
He said the company updates community leaders on what is currently happening at the project, requirements for workers, how work is progressing, and anything that needs to be improved. He said they involve tallymen in permit reviews and how to cut new drill pads.
MacDonald said the cultural centre being built will have three rooms, each to be decorated by the three First Nations communities to share their history.
by Ben Powless, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter