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Joint venture forged to restart Nakina sawmill

Indigenous-private partnership aims to achieve 75 per cent First Nations employment

A new joint venture agreement between Nakina Lumber and the Agoke Lumber Limited Partnership (ALLP) is working to get the Nakina dimensional lumber mill restarted, with a goal of employing a workforce comprised of 75 per cent Indigenous workers.

The Agoke Lumber Limited Partnership is comprised of the Aroland, Eabametoong and Marten Falls First Nations.

Described as “groundbreaking,” the agreement sets out a framework for current and future business opportunities in the forestry industry.

“This JV agreement is part of an overarching Agoke strategy that will help us continue to ensure that local forest resources are protected, managed and developed for the mutual benefit of our First Nation partners and peoples,” said Mark Bell, president of the Agoke Lumber Limited Partnership, in a June 29 news release.

“It will open up much needed employment opportunities in the Greenstone region, and add another revenue stream for our First Nation partners.”

The agreement outlines details on revenue-sharing, saw mill equity options and first right of refusal for contracts for the construction of forestry roads; log harvesting and delivery; and exploring biomass and biofuel energy-generating opportunities.

The Nakina sawmill is expected to create 150 new jobs and another 150 woodland operation jobs, in addition to indirect employment.

Bell estimates logging contractors could harvest between 400,000 and 500,000 cubic metres of fibre from the Ogoki Forest, which would be sold to Nakina Lumber Inc. 

"We are proud to pave the way for First Nations in Canada who have a dream of securing forest tenure on their traditional lands and benefiting from the tree stump to far past the mill’s production gates to international lumber markets,” said Bill Spade, a partnership director from Eabametoong.

“We are hopeful that this model can be replicated in other forests management units with other First Nations and communities across the country.”

Delia Okees, a director representing Marten Falls, said lodging in Greenstone would need to be improved for those people living in remote First Nations who want to work and become apprentices at the sawmill.

“We’ve got high unemployment rates and our First Nations population is the fastest growing segment in Canada,” Okees said. “As the forest sector's workforce ages and people retire, our First Nation’s peoples will be the logical choice for employment.”

In March, Agoke Development LP ( ) signed an agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to manage the Ogoki Forest Management Unit.

Agoke Develpoment manages the Ogoki Forest, including overseeing forest access road maintenance and silviculture programs, while protecting culturally sensitive areas and animal habitat.

The Ogoki Forest is located 400 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay immediately east of the Wabakimi Provincial Park and is approximately 10,900 square kilometres in size.