Pinehouse signs with Cameco, AREVA
by Phil Ambroziak
It is being described as an historic agreement, but some Northern Village of Pinehouse residents still don’t know what it’s all about.
On Dec. 12, the village – along with Kineepik Métis Local #9 – signed a “collaboration agreement” with uranium giants Cameco Corporation and AREVA Resources Canada. According to Pinehoue mayor Mike Natomagan, the agreement will bring long-term benefits to the community.
“It allows us to expand on our strong mining culture and do it our way,” Natomagan said. “We want to be accountable to ourselves. The socio-economic benefits give us hope for success and prosperity, especially for our young people.”
Cameco and AREVA are currently engaged in the exploration and development of mineral prospects and deposits in northern Saskatchewan, on lands located at or near the village.
The recent agreement focuses on four key areas – community investment, workforce development, business development and community engagement/environmental stewardship.
A press release issued shortly after the deal was signed indicated Cameco and AREVA are “to make one-time and annual community investment payments to Pinehouse.” It also claims the agreement will: allow for programming to maintain and grow the participation of Pinehouse residents in the Cameco workforce; offer provisions that commit Cameco to providing contracting opportunities to Pinehouse Business North (a northern-owned company specializing in construction and labour services) and promote opportunities for other Pinehouse entities to obtain contracts with both Cameco and AREVA.
In spite of this apparent good news, there are still some residents who wonder what the deal could ultimately mean for the community, and question why village officials went along with it before giving the public a chance to learn more about it.
“How is this really going to benefit us at the community level?” asked resident John Smerek.
Smerek also described a draft version of the agreement released in November as a “gag order” because of a clause that prohibited Pinehouse residents from criticizing the companies involved.
The clause called for Pinehouse’s promise to fully support Cameco and AREVA’s current, proposed and future projects in public, to investors, to regulators and to other groups. It subsequently called for Pinehouse leaders to ensure community members do not say or do anything to interfere with or delay the companies’ operations.
This, however, did not prevent Smerek him from offering his opinion on the process involved.
“Sure, they’re talking about jobs and contracts, but what does that entail?” Smerek continued. “Will people lose their rights to the land? This whole thing was done without getting the public’s consent. Sure, the village may be rewarded with money and jobs, but what are the other underlying factors?”