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Newmont’s Musselwhite Mine celebrates 25 Years of First Nations agreement

Musselwhite Agreement set targets for First Nation employment, business spinoff opportunities and environmental protection

One of the first mines in Canada to enter into a comprehensive agreement with First Nation communities is celebrating the 25th anniversary of that pact.

On September 20, Newmont commemorated the signing of the Musselwhite Agreement that involved Musselwhite's original owners, Goldcorp, and the mine’s neighbouring signatory communities of Cat Lake First Nation, North Caribou First Nation, Kingfisher Lake First Nation, Wunnumin Lake First Nation, Windigo and Shibogama Councils. The mine also has an agreement with Mishkeegogamang First Nation.

Musselwhite is a fly-in, fly-out operation of 17,548 hectares located 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. Commercial production began in April 1997.

A Newmont news release said the mine operation hosted several hundred guests, including mine employees, Indigenous leaders and community members, government leaders and business partners.

The Musselwhite Agreement, originally signed in 1996, set targets for First Nations employment, opportunities for business development, and environmental protection. Under a separate agreement, area trappers are compensated for the loss of harvesting rights within a designated area around the mine.

Since 1997, Musselwhite has produced more than five million ounces of gold. In 2021, the mine employed 737 people and invested $320,000 in local communities. 

The company did not say how much of its Musselwhite workforce is Indigenous. 

“As we look toward to the future and another 25 years, let us learn from the lessons of the past,” said Windigo First Nations Council CEO Frank McKay in a news release.

“If we continue to work cooperatively and towards common interest, communicate honestly and with transparency, and respect each other for the knowledge and strength each of our parties brings to the table, I know we will face and conquer all challenges ahead.”

“I’d like to extend my congratulations to all employees, Indigenous community members and partners who were involved with this 25-year milestone of the first gold bar pour at Musselwhite in 1997,” said Mark Rodgers, Newmont’s senior vice president for North America. “Musselwhite demonstrates the value of the northwestern Ontario mining jurisdictions and reinforces the commitment made by all to safe and responsible mining.”

According to Natural Resources Canada, the signatories of the agreement receive revenue sharing based on monthly production rates. The communities decide how the funds are managed. The agreement also establishes an environmental working committee and a Musselwhite working committee to monitor socio-economic matters. 

Newmont’s 2021 Sustainability Report said the Musselwhite site has implemented three key Indigenous employment initiatives — the Stope School training program, the Aboriginal Mining Skills Trade Entry Program, and a pre-apprenticeship for industrial electricians. 

The operation also engaged with a regional First Nation Mining Centre of Excellence, an initiative of the Sioux Lookout Friendship Accord to create future Indigenous training opportunities in 2022.