Former Attawapiskat First Nation chief Theresa Okimaw-Hall has been appointed the executive director of KWG Resources’ subsidiary, Canada Chrome Corporation (CCC).
The company has staked a corridor of claims from the Ring of Fire to Exton, Ont. and has conducted a $15 million surveying and soil testing program for the engineering and construction of a railroad that will pass through the traditional territories of Webequie and Marten Falls.
Okimaw-Hall is tasked with working with the communities to reach an agreement for a shared ownership of the proposed railway.
“My biggest challenge would be to meet with the chief and councils and also have community meetings so that they both are well-informed about being a part-owner of this railroad,” Okimaw-Hall said.
In the first of her two terms as chief of Attawapiskat, Okimaw-Hall negotiated the many agreements that resulted in the creation of the De Beers Victor Mine on the Attawapiskat River, Ontario’s first diamond mine.
“What we learned from that is that the community members did not have the funding so that they can upgrade their skills at the time of opening, even in the construction stage,” she said.
Okimaw-Hall said one of her tasks is to help develop training and education programs for the communities impacted by the Ring of Fire.
“I sit on two different committees and the colleges and university are a big part of that process,” she said.
Okimaw-Hall’s new position also has a social component.
“For example, DFC is hoping to build a student residence within the city limits, because when students leave their homes, they hardly have support,” she said. “My job is to ensure that our mining companies are involved in the social interaction. And they’re very responsive to address those concerns.”
Okimaw-Hall is looking forward to working for the company and its projects after hearing the company present its ideas in Fort Albany.
“KWG and CCC have been very upfront with what they plan do within the Ring of Fire with the railroad,” she said.
KWG President Frank Smeenk said that Okimaw-Hall’s past experience, which includes 16 years as Justice of the Peace in Cochrane, makes her suited for this role.
“It is clear to me also that the James Bay coastal Cree communities of the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council are amongst those that will be chiefly affected by these developments upstream in the watersheds that drain to their communities in Ontario’s mighty northern rivers,” he said in a press release.
Smeenk hopes Okimaw-Hall can get First Nations on board.
“We believe Theresa’s stature as a former chief of one of the principal Mushkegowuk communities will enable her to broker their participation in the equity of CCC also,” he said.
Ontario Native Women’s Association executive director Cora McGuire-Cyrette enjoyed participating along with National Chief RoseAnne Archibald and W
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