Two Shuswap bands strike gold with mine development
Daily News Staff Reporter
The share of wealth from New Afton's copper and gold is not restricted to shareholders, employees and governments.
Two Shuswap bands — Tk'emlups and Skeetchestn — will share in the range of $7 million a year in revenues once the mine is in full production, estimated Tk'emlups chief Shane Gottfriedson.
Chiefs from the two bands symbolically rolled the semi-trailer unit carrying copper concentrate forward on a ramp during a ceremony Thursday morning. But their involvement is far more than symbolic.
The revenues come from a royalty-sharing agreement with the provincial government as well as direct payments from mine owner New Gold Inc. under a partnership agreement.
Skeetchestn Indian Band supplies aggregate to New Afton. Six trucks a day that will eventually leave the site burdened with 50 tonnes each of copper concentrate are being trucked by Stk'eml'upsemc-Arrow Transportion — a joint venture between the two bands and the giant trucking company.
Skeetchestn band chief Rick Denault said the revenues will mean the difference for some band members between deciding whether to use meager income to purchase prescription drugs or food.
"Now they don't have to make that choice," he said in an interview. "It means we can do things we can't do now.
Gottfriendson said his band will direct much of the funding toward helping members get post-secondary education as well as spending on social programs.
The band now has a wait list for members wanting to get financial help for trades education.
"We want to reduce that list and give our people the tools."
In addition to the revenue sharing and joint venture, the mine lists more than 100 people on staff with aboriginal heritage. There are about 26 Tk'emlups band members and 15 from Skeetchestn. Those include miners, human resources staff and technical employees.
One of them is Chrystal Simon, an environmental technician who trained at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. She last worked with her father, a small construction contractor, before being hired at New Gold.
"I once told my kids, I may have to move up north and they freaked," she laughed. "It's nice to work close to home."
New Gold CEO Bob Gallagher said aboriginal leaders from other countries have come to the site to study the partnership and royalty sharing.
The company is spending $100 million this year exploring at its Blackwater property in the Chilcotin. Gallagher said an agreement with First Nations there is critical to that project's success, as it was here.
"The first thing we did once we acquired it was to meet First Nations, get them here and introduce them to Tk'emlups and Skeetchestn. They got a clear message how we operate."