Case Study

Collaboration Agreement in Pinehouse: One Year Anniversary

Collaboration Agreement in Pinehouse: One Year Anniversary
Mike Natomagan, Pinehouse mayor, and Tim Gitzel, Cameco’s president and CEO, sign the historic collaboration agreement Photo courtesy Yvonne Maurice, Pinehouse elder

Cameco’s success in aboriginal engagement is shared with northern communities and comes from a willingness from both parties to form mutually beneficial partnerships. This is seen in the 25 year plus relationship between Cameco and the northern village of Pinehouse and the Kineepik Metis local and the resulting successful first year under a new collaboration agreement signed in 2012.

The agreement covers the same five areas that Cameco focuses all its efforts on in northern Saskatchewan: workforce development, business development, community investment and community engagement and environmental stewardship.

Under the agreement, a formal commitment was made to continue to employ Pinehouse people, invest in the community and contract Pinehouse businesses.

“What really changed with the agreement is that Pinehouse now has more control over community investment funding in their own backyard and more certainty around business opportunities for locally owned companies,” said Tim Gitzel, president and CEO of Cameco.

To the mayor of Pinehouse this agreement was all about opportunity and by no means a hand out. “It is up to us to make it work, to earn it,” said Mike Natomagan.

A year and a half later, the results speak for themselves. Since the agreement was signed, the community has seen several initiatives take shape that will help the community for years to come.

First off, the community and the Royal Trust Corporation of Canada created the Pinehouse Community Trust that outlines how the community investment money from the collaboration agreement can be used. Five community members are on the Trust Advisory Panel (TAP) that is responsible for reviewing applications. Once the TAP decides on the projects and beneficiaries, the trustee – the Royal Trust Corporation of Canada – provides a second eye. If it’s satisfied that all guidelines have been met, it passes the funds onto the beneficiaries.

Through the trust, $1.8 million was provided to the community in 2013 that supported many community development initiatives, including scholarships, trades training programs and the completion of a new arena. “The arena is a culmination of a 25-year dream for us,” said Natomagan. “It’s one way this agreement gives us sustainability for the future.”

With 70 per cent of the population under the age of 30, building a strong workforce is key to the community’s sustainability and was also a focus of the agreement.

In 2013, $6 million was paid in wages, work placements and scholarships by Cameco. Leveraging funds from the trust and other funding available to them, the community also made some impressive strides in supporting 37 students in completing their Grade 12 and another 32 individuals through the Essential Skills Training program. This growing skilled workforce helps feed into the increasing business opportunities flowing through the collaboration agreement.

Since 2007, Pinehouse Business North (PBN) and its joint venture partners have been valued contractors, doing more than $50 million in work at Cameco sites, including $19 million alone in 2013. This included a number of construction and labour contracts at the McArthur River and Key Lake sites, maintenance of the Cigar Lake access road and reclamation and re-vegetation projects.

Another result of the agreement has been a more effective and streamlined approach to community engagement and environmental protection activities. A joint implementation engagement subcommittee (JIES) was created with two members from Pinehouse and two representatives from Cameco to plan and schedule meetings, workshops and site and community visits to share and build knowledge around the operations and the environment.

New video conferencing equipment has encouraged more regular discussion between the community and Cameco, and has allowed for greater preparation leading up to face-to-face meetings.

As equal partners at the table, Natomagan can’t help but attribute his community’s participation in industry to the progress it’s been able to make, and just how far it’s come since the late 1970’s when Pinehouse was negatively depicted in a CBC documentary.

“We had only 500 people then; there was no employment and alcohol was rife, and we had no option but to change,” said Natomagan. “Today, Pinehouse is one of the most progressive communities in the north.”