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Project kicks off with traditional Indigenous ceremony and feast

December 8, 2021

Traditional ceremony and feast. Vale employees stand with Gimaa (Chief) Allan Ozawanimke and other representatives from Z’gamok Construction LP, which is wholly owned by Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation. Z’gamok Construction was awarded the first phase of the Nairn Falls Generating Station project. “It was a great learning experience for the project team and an honour to be invited to participate,” said Danica Pagnutti, specialist, Corporate and Indigenous Affairs. Photo: Vale Archive

Since 1926, the Nairn Falls Generating Station has straddled the Spanish River, located in the Greater Sudbury district. Over the years, the river has been maintained and repaired and, for a structure built in the early 20th Century, it has aged relatively well. 

“We’ve done what we can to maintain the spillway over time, but it’s now time for it to be replaced,” said Glenn Munro, Area Project manager.

Eyeing environmental considerations 

Nairn Falls Generating Station. Photo: Vale Archive

Environmental considerations have been a very important aspect of this project” said Darryl Cooke, senior project manager, Surface Projects and Studies. “Downstream we have a spawning bed for sturgeon and walleye that we can’t disrupt. So ultimately, while it’s not a big project, it’s definitely a challenging one that requires careful engineering and modeling as well as working closely with regulators and our Environment team.” 

Cementing community partnerships 

The project is located in Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation’s traditional territory and the project team awarded the first phase of the project, which involves creating a laydown area, new access road and other preparatory work to Sagamok, which owns Z’gamok Construction LP. Z’gamok Construction is the contractor for ore haulage at Totten Mine, so they are familiar with our company and our obsession with safety. Vale News covered the ore haulage story here.

Glenn has worked closely with Z’gamok on job hazard analysis, safety planning and other Vale specific methodologies. “We have a lot of systems and processes in place,” Glenn said. “The systems take time and effort to learn, but are critically important because they ensure that people are protected and safe.” 

Glenn said the experience to date has been a success. “It has been a great opportunity for us to establish relationships and to provide an organization with the support they need to be successful using the North Atlantic Project Group project delivery methodology.” 

A ceremony to ask permission, a feast to celebrate a partnership

In late October, work officially began, starting with an onsite ceremony and feast led by Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation. Paul Eshkakogan, Z’gamok Construction general manager and past-Chief of Sagamok Anishnawbek, explained: “We’re impacting the environment by clearing trees and excavating organic material, and the ceremony was our way of asking permission from the Spirits and the Creator to proceed, and to ensure that we’re going to have a safe and successful project.” 

The ceremony involved the burning of tobacco, the smoking of a pipe and offerings of different foods to the land. “We wanted to involve people from Vale who we have worked with quite a bit over the last few years,” said Paul, adding, “Vale has been supportive of our development. They have really helped us build capacity and expertise within our company.” 

For Glenn and Darryl, participating in the ceremony was an honour. “It was really meaningful to be included and welcomed,” said Darryl. 

If all goes smoothly, the spillway will be fully refurbished by 2024. 

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