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Victor’s influence spreads (03/05)

By KELLY LOUISEIZE The diamond exploration activity surrounding Attawapiskat is slowly moving west to Kasabonika.



The diamond exploration activity surrounding Attawapiskat is slowly moving west to Kasabonika.


Residents there are staying one step ahead of the game by developing a mineral strategy to prepare for the onslaught of eager prospectors.


Specifically, Kasabonika wants to become a hub for far Northern communities by establishing a minerals staging area, rebuilding service facilities, and honing mineral exploration expertise.


Still in the concept phase, the idea is to have a computerized mineral resource information centre where equipment such as global positioning systems (GPS), geophysical advisories and portable drills are at the ready. A resident of Kasabonika has already been trained on the computer, but as projects move forward, more education is required according to Eno H. Anderson, deputy chief and economic development and resource officer.


In order for the community to benefit from the services and supply end, Mitchell Diabo, general manager with Kasabonika Community Development Corp., says they are preparing to undertake a project worth approximately $500,000 to renovate and expand the existing 12-room hotel and warehouse. A restaurant or catering food service business will then be established, so visiting officials will not have to cook for themselves. The equipment, warehousing and hotel services will be useful to other exploration companies and active prospecting First Nations communities. They have received phase one approval from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. Phase two will detail a financial plan with drawings and design.


“I know from my meeting with MNDM both sides are interested, it is just a matter of how we are going to develop it,” Anderson says.


Utilizing the skills they have learned from visiting companies, Kasabonika residents are now becoming independent licence prospectors. Youth have experience in line cutting and staking and Anderson knows the area has “gold and diamond properties, that is why we are out there right now. We know there is a lot of potential out there.”


The community has submitted a junior business exploration plan through the KCDC to become a junior exploration company. Currently, Anderson is making a couple of presentations to companies interested in knowing more about their traditional land properties for joint venturing.


Results from the exploration surveys will be ready by April, just in time for the Thunder Bay mineral symposium. The young generation is enthusiastic about learning the trade, Anderson says. So much so, in fact, that residents will be going to Placer Dome’s Musselwhite Mine to participate in the common drilling program. They have already accrued some practical time as hired drillers. Now it is a matter of instructing them on the academics and bringing in more hands on experience.


“It is a capacity building (exercise),” Anderson says.


Mineral development spin-offs have brought a new vibrancy to the community where unemployment stands at approximately 90 per cent. Without prospecting, the local economy is limited to the resources of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Youth employment is seasonal at best, Anderson says.


“It is going to take a while, but we are helping the First Nations, especially the youth.”


Diamond giant De Beers Canada has been in the area for more than a year and has completed work on 29 of the 39 drill holes on Kasabonika traditional trap line areas.


During the drill program the company encountered technical difficulties with the helicopters and drills, resulting in a two-week delay.


“They are talking about coming back next month.”


Anderson says he is unable to disclose whether De Beers has found diamonds, since the community has signed confidentiality provisions. De Beers and Kasabonika have yet to negotiate a partnership for mineral opportunities, but Anderson expects the De Beers Victor Mine project will lead to promising opportunities in his area because the rock substance is much the same over in Attawapiskat as it is in his territory.


“This would confirm there is big kimberlites or diamonds in the area. (Companies like De Beers) are not going to stop looking for diamonds.”