Two area bands, New Gold mine sign follow-up agreement

Mike Youds / Kamloops Daily News
December 1, 2011 01:00 AM

There were some loose ends to tie up in the participation agreement between New Afton mine, Skeetchestn and the Tk'emlups Indian Band - 52 to be precise.

In short, it wasn't a done deal, but that changed Thursday with a signing ceremony on the Skeetchestn reserve at the SSN office.

SSN is the Stk'emlupsemc Secwepemc Nation Office, a new professional building just off the Trans-Canada Highway near Savona, where the economic partnership between the bands is based.

"As we moved along, we were definitely seeing a need to fill the gaps in," said Tk'emlups Chief Shane Gottfriedson. "It was always the intent of both parties to work on getting the deal done."

Those gaps included long-term employment targets and contracts. Closing them means they now have "a true engagement of the parties," he added.

Ann Wallin, human resources manager for New Afton, said the agreement had to be updated due to changing circumstances. The mine was originally slated to open in 2009, but that was delayed by the global market slowdown.

"This was an opportunity to talk about the things both parties wanted to look at," she said. "As we got into the agreement, as with any legal document, it's got to be a living, breathing thing."

Between the two bands, about 80 members are employed at the mine, which is expected to begin full operation next year. Another 40 employees will be hired by then.

The agreement could serve as a template for others between mining operations and First Nations around B.C.

"I think it's definitely something any First Nation and company can use to look at real strong partnerships that looks after the needs of everybody. It was always the intent of both parties to work at getting the deal done," Wallin said.

Thursday's signing was preceded by a renaming of the SSN building in honour of John Jules, the TIB member and cultural luminary who died last year of cancer.

"John was a big force within our division," Gottfriedson said, referring to the Ske'emlupsemc te Secwepemc, the collective name for the two bands. "We honoured John and his family by naming it after him."

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