First Nations company provides vital roadbuilding services to remote communities.
Kimesskanemenow is a Cree word that means, “This is our Road,” a fitting name for the winter road management company that is owned and operated by four northern First Nations; Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, Kashechewan, and Moose Cree.
Their company, Kimesskanemenow Corporation, (also known as K Corp) was founded in 2001, and for the past 15 years, has been responsible for building and maintaining the Western James Bay Winter Road (JBWR), which starts in Moosonee and travels 312km up the western coast of James Bay, connecting the communities of Fort Albany and Kashechewan, and eventually ending at the Attawapiskat First Nation.
The road is a lifeline to the remote areas in the James Bay Lowlands of Northern Ontario and without it, existing and future development of this part of the country would not be possible.
In fact, it’s thanks to the road that K Corp helped build that companies like De Beers Canada are in the north.
As most people know, De Beers Canada made international headlines when it built the Victor Mine in 2006, (the first diamond mine in Ontario at a cost of about $1 billion) approximately 90km west of the coastal community of Attawapiskat First Nation.
Since the open-pit mine began production in 2008, with an annual tonne processing capacity of about 2.7 million tonnes, and an annual carat production capacity of 600,000 carats, it has proven to be a key to Northern Ontario development and its communities.
With an estimated mine life to 2018, the Victor Mine’s energy and equipment needs will continue for at least two more years and, according to K Corp, cannot be met without the JBWR.
Air transport is prohibitively expensive, so the winter road is considered by far the most affordable way to supply the remote mine with the necessary 450 loads of cargo, and 10 to 11 million litres of diesel fuel that it consumes each year.
But the Victor Mine is not the only site that requires a reliable supply of goods and services. Similar transportation challenges also face other remote northern First Nations communities that need to truck goods and fuel via seasonal winter roads.
With the exception of Moose Cree First Nation, which has a railway line to Cochrane, air travel is the only transportation available year-round for the three other First Nations, which for most community residents is prohibitively expensive.
Thanks again to the JBWR, it provides a critical socio-economic tie between the communities as well as a significant source of employment, and to keep relationship going, Kimesskanemenow Corporation and De Beers Canada have entered into a productive partnership.
In 2004, the two parties signed a Winter Road Agreement, which was re-negotiated in 2014. Under the agreement, De Beers pays the bulk of the costs of the road’s construction and maintenance costs, while the balance of the costs are provided by the Provincial and Federal governments.
Kimesskanemenow Corporation is guided by three central priorities: Building capacity in its communities, ensuring that its member communities receive maximum benefits, and maintenance of traditional culture, which naturally includes environmental protection.
The company also ensures that money from building and maintaining the road stays in the hands of local First Nation members.
To do this, the road is constructed and maintained entirely by local community members, either as direct employees or through local contractors. This has required developing capacity, which the company has done through training and education programs.
The practical effect of these guiding principles is that during the winter months, roughly 200 individuals work on the road, helping ensure that the road brings economic benefits to individuals, families, and communities.
For many, seasonal employment gained through constructing and maintaining the winter road is the only consistently available work in the community. Furthermore, dividends from the company go back to the hands of the communities to be used as they see fit.
Finally, Kimesskanemenow Corporation donates to community- based initiatives that will benefit the communities, with each of the four communities allotted an annual amount.
Reflecting the corporation’s central values, the money is used to fund initiatives that benefit youth, the environment, or maintain traditional ways of living.
One example of the programs that the corporation helps fund is CreeFest, a celebration of Cree culture that is held annually in the Mushkegowuk communities.
The company also funds the Edward W. Chilton scholarship at Northern College in honour of the late Ed Chilton, the company’s first president. The scholarship is awarded to community members to further their education.
K Corp’s list of smaller grants, available online, include many community and cultural programs that maintain the vitality of all these communities…
Kimesskanemenow Corporation maintains an important piece of infrastructure that benefits the communities and allows for the ongoing operation of the Victor Diamond Mine. As a cooperative venture, the corporation has proven itself to be invaluable to both the communities and the mining company.