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Chief calls Totten Mine haulage contract an ‘exceptional relationship’

June 19, 2019

Paul Eshkakogan (left) and Councilor Craig Toulouse from Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation (right), present Angie Robson, manager, Corporate Affairs & Sustainability for Vale’s North Atlantic Operations, with an eagle feather in recognition of her support for the community. Photo: Vale Archive

At 5 a.m. on Saturday, June 1, 2019, Chief Nelson Toulouse was sitting in one of Z’Gamok Construction LP’s haulage trucks at our Totten Mine in Sudbury, ON., and smiling.

The Chief had a lot to be pleased about: it was the start of the first shift on the first official day of the ore haulage contract between our company and his community, Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, which is also the owner of the construction company.

… History in the making.

“I think this is an exceptional relationship with Vale,” the Chief said of the five-year contract for hauling ore at Totten Mine, adding, “I hope it creates a model for how other Indigenous communities and companies like ours can go forward.”

Opportunities 

The contract provides an economic stimulus for Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, a community of almost 1,800 residents located on the north shore of Lake Huron, where gainful employment has long been a challenge. In addition to haulage and trucking jobs, the contract will open up opportunities in mining, truck mechanics, and associated services like snow removal and maintenance.

“Z’Gamok Construction and Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation have demonstrated exceptional leadership in establishing this contract,” said Ryan Land, manager of Corporate & Indigenous Affairs for Vale’s Ontario & Manitoba Operations. “We look forward to working with them.”

The contract stems from an Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA) for Totten Mine between Vale and Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation that was signed in 2012.

One reason the contract is so successful, according to Chief Nelson Toulouse, is that “our cultural viewpoints are entrenched in it; there was cultural sensitivity and training involved.”

Cultural awareness

All employees at Totten Mine receive cultural awareness training to foster a welcoming and inclusive workplace, and at Family Days and annual fish fries at the mine site, members of Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation share elements of their culture.

Recently, a traditional Sunrise Ceremony took place between leaders from Sagamok, Totten Mine and our North Atlantic Team. This spiritual ceremony marked a new beginning, and celebrated the success of Vale and Sagamok’s relationship, and how we can continue to work well together in the future.

“We believe the environment needs to be sustainable,” said Chief Toulouse. “Anytime we dig a hole, anytime we extract things from nature, we ask permission by way of a ceremony. We believe it helps keeps us in check.”

Eagle feather 

Following the Sunrise Ceremony, Angie Robson, manager of Corporate Affairs & Sustainability for Vale’s North Atlantic Operations, was honoured with the presentation of an eagle feather for her ongoing support for Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation.

“This is an honour that I will cherish for the rest of my career,” said Angie. “The relationship we share with the Sagamok community is truly special, and for me has led to personal and professional learning and growth.

In an open letter to the people of Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, published on the community’s website, Chief Toulouse wrote that this is “history in the making” because by hauling ore, the Indigenous community, as a whole, has become a vital part of operations for the very first time.

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