TIMMINS -- Communities in northern Ontario continue to celebrate the recent announcement that IAMGOLD’s Côté Gold mining project near Gogama finally has the go-ahead to begin construction.

In Timmins, city officials said the potential for billions in wages over its projected 18-year lifespan will be a gold mine of opportunity for the area.

"It’s going to be enormous with just the spin-off business — aside from the employees that they’re going to be hiring to operate the mine," said Val Venneri president of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce. "The (work for) different suppliers and that is going to help restart the economy in the northern region."

Venneri said the chamber was one of the groups advocating for the project to push through the 'red tape' that pained its development for at least a decade.

Building relationships with IAMGOLD

A major part of the planning process involved negotiating an Impact-Benefit Agreement with neighbouring Indigenous communities since the area around the site is historical hunting territory for Mattagami and Flying Post First Nations.

Timmins Mayor George Pirie said the ease of the negotiations was indicative of the solid relationships built with those communities.

"There’s been excellent work done by our Indigenous communities in this region to create the relationships with the company, and that bodes very well for all of our contractors," Pirie said. "The contractors already have the relationships with the Indigenous communities that are in this geographical area, so I think it’s especially good news for (them)."

Businesses like the Bucket Shop in the city are already gearing up to get a piece of the massive business potential for the mine, both during its three-year construction period and during its operations.

Paul Woodward, The Bucket Shop's vice-president, said he’s been in talks with IAMGOLD about the project and suppliers in the area are eager to jump in as well.

"For businesses like The Bucket Shop and Timmins as a whole, there’s lots of opportunities," Woodward said. "Right from fabrication to installation, all the way into mine life. And with 18-years of mine life, we couldn’t be happier."

Getting the green-light on Côté Gold

After at least eight years of planning, IAMGOLD now has the okay to begin construction on its Côté Gold mining project that will be located south of Gogama, Ont.

The open-pit to be built at apparent gold-rich Côté Lake will take three years and around $900 million to build, plus more than 1,300 jobs to be created during its construction.

"It’s a major investment, coming at a time when I think the economy is looking for some major investments," said IAMGOLD president Gordon Stothart Tuesday, referring to the economic hit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Projections estimate it could add $10 billion to the provincial economy and $5 billion in wages, including the additional 450 full-time operating jobs to be created.

Boosting the north’s world-class mining status

Working with governments in Sudbury and Timmins, Stothart said the mine will be a major boost for northern Ontario.

"We want to continue to supply the Timmins-Sudbury region and reinforce that vision that it really is a centre of mining worldwide," Stothart said.

Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger reacted to the announcement, saying it’s welcome and positive news during a "very trying and difficult 2020."

"A project of this magnitude, in our own backyard, combined with our world-class mining service and supply companies will see amazing local benefits to our local job market and economy," Bigger said in an emailed. "It will also boost our innovation and research and will only solidify Greater Sudbury's standing as the 'go-to' and leader in mining in the world."

Working with First Nations communities

Leaders of Mattagami First Nation and Flying Post First Nation said the Côté Gold project will greatly benefit their communities, near which the mine will be built.

The Indigenous communities worked with the mining firm to draft an Impact-Benefit Agreement that they felt would adequately compensate them for the lost historical hunting land.

"Something that we’ve negotiated that will basically cover the cost, the loss of use of that land and the historical data that we’ve had with that territory," said Chad Boissoneau, chief of Mattagami First Nation.

Boissoneau said he is grateful to the elders in his community who worked to support the First Nation and advocated for its members over the years.

Many members of the community will work at the mine, he said, which would mean being able to work near home, rather than moving to Timmins or Sudbury.

"Our members could be employed there for, who knows, 30 to 50 years, depending on the ore body and the richness of gold there," Boissoneau said. "It’s an exciting day for me, for my council and for my community members."