MUSSELWHITE – The Musselwhite mine has grown exponentially over the last 25 years – something leaders from operator Newmont and surrounding communities celebrated with a ceremony at the mine on Wednesday.
The ceremony highlighted the company's formal agreements with surrounding First Nations communities including North Caribou Lake, Cat Lake, Wunnumin Lake, the Windigo First Nations Council, the Shibogama First Nations Council, Mishkeegogamang First Nation, and Kingfisher Lake First Nation.
“We are celebrating with our partners on reaching this milestone,” said Mark Kiessling, the mine's general manager. “We’re together as a community tonight.”
Kiessling acknowledged the First Nations communities have contributed to success of the fly-in operation, located nearly 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay on the shores of Opapimiskan Lake.
“Since the commencement of the agreement in 1992 and the first commercial production in April of 1997, our fly-in, fly-out operation and underground mine has produced 5 million ounces of gold,” he announced at the event.
The company, which employs 737 people and says it has invested $320,000 in local communities, called that figure a milestone.
“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,” stated Mark Rodgers, Newmont's senior vice president for North America in a release.
“Musselwhite demonstrates the value of the Northwestern Ontario mining jurisdictions and reinforces the commitment made by all to safe and responsible mining.”
The company also pointed to business opportunities created for First Nations contractors. One such contract is with Windigo Catering. At the celebration, Frank McKay, CEO of Windigo First Nations Council, offered his congratulations and support.
“As we look toward to the future and another 25 years, let us learn from the lessons of the past. If we continue to work cooperatively and towards a 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. Miigwech.”
Marcel Boucher, head chef of Windigo Catering has been working at Musselwhite since 1995. Boucher started as a breakfast cook and was on-site for the grand opening. Now seeing the 25th anniversary of the mine, Boucher shared his experiences.
“There have been a lot of changes,” he explained. “When I got here, there was no airport. They were just building the road. It started out as a small camp, maybe 70 people, but it grew as time went on.”