PARTNERSHIP: More communities connect with gold miner-First Nations power partnership

Five more First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario have connected with Wataynikaneyap Power to strengthen its transmission initiative plans. Earlier

Five more First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario have connected with Wataynikaneyap Power to strengthen its transmission initiative plans. Earlier

this year, Ontario Mining Association member Goldcorp and 13 First Nations started this company to develop a transmission line. The goal is to connect remote communities to the provincial power grid and provide more reliable power to communities and companies already connected.

With Deer Lake, Keewaywin, McDowell Lake, North Spirit Lake and Poplar Hill First Nations coming on board, there are now 18 First Nations working with Goldcorp on this project. "Our communities require a reliable power source to be able to participate in economic development opportunities taking place in the region," said Wataynikaneyap Power executive director Peter Campbell. "We look forward to benefiting from this very important infrastructure project."

"Wataynikaneyap Power is an example of how industry and First Nations can work together on projects that are good for the economy and the environment while benefitting communities in the region for years to come," said Gil Lawson, mine manager for Goldcorp's Musselwhite operation, when the power company was launched. Since then, Lawson has been appointed VP operational support Canada and U.S. for Goldcorp.

The new power company has on the table a single project to be built in two phases. The first phase is s 300 km transmission line to upgrade and reinforce electricity transmission into Pickle Lake. Phase two involves extending the line north of Pickle Lake to link up with remote communities. The current line is at capacity and although Goldcorp's Musselwhite mine and other customers are connected to the existing infrastructure, it is vulnerable to frequent outages.

Subsequent to the expansion of the Wataynikaneyap Power partnership, the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Aecom to build the new transmission line. The project will also involve a licensed transmission partner which will partly own and operate the line. "We are delighted to play a role in providing needed electrical power in Ontario," said Aecom chairman and CEO John M. Dionisio. 

"Our goal is the grid connection of remote communities and the elimination of dependency on diesel generation," said Margaret Kenequanash, chair of Wataynikaneyap Power. "There are many health, safety, and environmental concerns with diesel generation, and it does not meet the needs of our communities. Grid connection will change that, and our partnership will provide the necessary expertise to move this important infrastructure project forward."

These remote communities for electricity rely on on-site generators powered by diesel fuel. It is estimated that diesel generation in remote communities costs three to 10 times more than the average cost of power in Ontario.

The original 13 First Nation signatories to the Wataynikaneyap Power partnership were Bearskin Lake, Cat Lake, Kasabonika Lake, Kingfisher Lake, Kitchenuhmaykoosib-Inninuwug, Lac Seul, Muskrat Dam, North Caribou, Sachigo, Slate Falls, Wapekeka, Wawakapewin and Wunnumin Lake First Nations.

"Wataynikaneyap" is translated as "line that brings light" in a local First Nations language. Elders provided guidance in the naming of the partnership.

*Peter McBride is manager of communications at the Ontario Mining Association.


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