Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund (NADF) president & CEO Harvey Yesno has taken a one-year leave of absence from the organization.
Yesno has been with NADF since 1993 and this will be his first extended leave from the organization.
Months ago, Yesno began to discuss with the NADF board of directors about taking time off.
“I wanted a leave just so I could take some time off and to deal with some personal stuff,” he said.
Yesno said he discussed with the board how he would take the appropriate time off.
“We agreed mutually that I should ask for a leave of absence, because the other option obviously was to resign, which I had considered,” he said.
NADF Chairperson Madeline Commanda confirmed the board’s decision.
“Considering his time and service with NADF, the board approved his leave of absence,” she said.
The leave took effect Aug. 12.
But Yesno said taking personal time off from work was initially the plan “until a couple of business opportunities came up.”
One of those opportunities was the opening of the new Ring of Fire office in Thunder Bay.
Yesno began serving as the office manager and the director for Aboriginal community and stakeholder relations when the office opened Aug. 25.
“This came about very quickly,” Yesno said.
He said he was offered the position two weeks before he accepted it.
“This (opportunity) interested me only because it’s in our area,” he said. “I’m familiar with a lot of the communities – I’ve worked with them for more than 30 years.”
Yesno said there are two potential large projects within the Ring of Fire that interested him and these projects would require infrastructure such as hydro lines, railroads, roads and fibre optics.
“It can become a fairly significant project,” he said.
The new office and advisory council will help promote economic opportunities and help facilitate successful development in the Ring of Fire area.
Its goals are to develop strategic vision and framework for development, promote economic opportunities for northern Ontario and Aboriginal communities, and to partner with other ministries in development of creative solutions that meet the interests of both the mining industry and Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.
Yesno said his plan is keep the NADF “option open” and “see how this position evolves” over the next 6-9 months. At that time, he said he will give the NADF board plenty of notice if he does not plan on returning.
In the meantime, both the NADF board and Yesno believe the organization will continue to operate smoothly in his absence.
“I set up the organization so that managers can run their division individually,” Yesno said. “It took time to recruit the right people … so it’s in very good hands.”
“The board believes that we have a very capable staff that can keep business going while he’s away,” Commanda said.
NADF provides business and financial services like loans, leases and business counselling services to Aboriginal people across northern Ontario looking to start or expand a business.
The Ring of Fire is located 535 kilometers northeast of the new Ring of Fire office in Thunder Bay.
It spans nearly 4,000 square kilometres and there are about 25,000 claims held by 35 mining companies exploring the area for chromite, nickel, copper, platinum, zinc, gold and diamonds.
The Ring of Fire could become one of the world’s largest discoveries of chromite and the only one located in North America.
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