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Northern Ont. First Nation celebrates mining agreement, water treatment plant

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Biigtigong Nishnaabeg -- a northern Ontario First Nation community situated between Wawa and Thunder Bay near Highway 17 – has much to celebrate on a snowy winter Friday.

A hybrid event hosted at the reserve and online through Zoom due to inclement winter weather was attended by band members, mining and government officials.

NEW WATER TREATMENT PLANT

Unlike the 28 First Nation communities in Canada still under long-term drinking water advisories, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg has never been without clean drinking water.

However, a new raw water intake and treatment plant is being constructed on the northern Ontario territory, the First Nation announced Friday by Chief Duncan Michano and federal Indigenous services minister Patty Hajdu.

The new plant will provide a safe and reliable source of potable water for more than 168 homes and many non-residential buildings. It will be capable of meeting the community's current and future needs.

It is expected to cost about $58 million and should be operational by November 2024.

"Biigtigong Nishnaabeg is very pleased to see the beginning stages of our water project come to life," Michano said.

"It is also essential infrastructure for the future growth of our community. This project has allowed our community to secure a basic need for many generations to come."

Also sometimes known as Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation, it has 1,279 registered members as of December with 530 living on reserve.

COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENT

The community has come to an agreement with Generation Mining on the Marathon palladium-copper project located nearby detailing the benefits the First Nation will receive and how the impacts will be mitigated.

"It includes commitments from the Company regarding environmental management, employment, training and education, business opportunities, social and cultural support, and financial participation," the mining company said in a news release in January.

A ratification vote was held Nov. 12 on the agreement and 251 members voted "yes," while 30 voted no.

The approval from both federal and provincial governments allowing the project to proceed was announced at the end of November.

"The government decisions validate the work done to date to develop the Marathon Project as a sustainable, environmentally sensitive, low-cost producer of critical metals that are needed to support emissions controls and the transition to a greener economy," Generation Mining said.

Jamie Levy, the CEO of Generation Mining, said the mine will supply the critical minerals needed for the electric vehicle industry, bringing jobs and prosperity to the region.

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