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Road project to pave way for economic development in Atikameksheng

First Nation embarking on $4.8-million infrastructure initiative
Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation (File photo)

Construction of a new road into Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation is expected to enhance resident safety while also creating new economic development opportunities for the community, located west of Sudbury.

The $4.8-million infrastructure project involves the construction of five kilometres of road that would bypass the main reserve road, with an extension into a local subdivision.

Funding for the project was confirmed on July 16.

The federal government will invest more than $3.6 million through the Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, while the province is contributing nearly $900,000. Atikameksheng Anishnawbek will invest more than $327,490.

Atikameksheng Chief Craig Nootchtai said the alternative route would reduce traffic in the main village area, curtail dust pollution, and lessen the risk of traffic accidents on the current mixed-use road, enhancing the health and safety of residents.

That includes providing safer access to logging areas and to the former Long Lake Mine, which is being remediated by the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and for which Atikameksheng is providing aggregate extraction services.

But the project also brings with it the promise of job creation and economic development.

“The creation of this road will provide construction job opportunities for community members and will facilitate increased economic development growth and independence,” Nootchtai said during a virtual news conference.

As part of its Capital Plan and Comprehensive Community Plan, Atikameksheng hopes to expand its housing and small-business opportunities.

Nootchtai said the new road will create the potential for another 30 residential lots and another 10 business lots, which would “foster future growth.”

“These are very exciting times for our community, and we look forward to continuing this momentum throughout my term as gimaa (chief),” he said.

It’s the latest development in a long list of achievements for the community, which is also in the process of developing a light industrial and commercial park. Atikameksheng received federal funding of $220,643 in 2019 for that project.

The community has a number of agreements with mining companies, including KGHM, Glencore, Vale, and MacDonald Mines.

In 2019, it teamed up with J&S Drilling on a joint venture agreement, Bagone’an JS Drilling Inc., giving the community a 51 per cent stake in the partnership, and winning them a multi-year drilling contract with KGHM.

Also in 2019, the community established Eshkaa Niibiish-Day Inc., the partnership with Day Group to provide transportation and aggregate extraction services for the Long Lake Mine rehab project in the south end of Sudbury.

The people of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek are descendants of the Ojibwe, Algonquin and Odawa Nations. The community has 1,220 members and a land base of 43,747 acres.