SIOUX LOOKOUT – BUSINESS – The Lac Seul First Nation’s Obishikokaang Resources Corporation (ORC) has been awarded $160,000 from the Strategic Partnerships Initiative (SPI) to investigate potential forest economic developments in the Lac Seul and Slate Falls area with respect to:
- Transportation/access improvements
- Value-added wood processing
- Cost reductions in fibre transport
- Merchandizing yard
- Multiple employment opportunities for community members
The study began on September 13th and will finish on March 31st, 2017. The SPI-supported project has a truly regional scope, bringing together communities and industry stakeholders to discuss mutually beneficial opportunities in forestry and infrastructure development. Project researchers are currently investigating the feasibility of several opportunities, including a study of local wood transportation costs that is examining the implementation of a ferry crossing on Lac Seul that could shorten haul times and distances, and establishing a value- added woodworking facility in Lac Seul First Nation.
Chief Clifford Bull of Lac Seul First Nation says he “is excited and eager to investigate the opportunities around value-added manufacturing and to investigate the potential to reinstate a ferry crossing on Lac Seul.” Chief Bull hopes for improved transportation for community members as well, stating, “The ferry also used to provide access for our First Nations people north of the community, and we are excited by the opportunity to regain the route.” If feasible, the ferry crossing will decrease the amount of traffic currently experienced on the Vermillion River Road, leading to a smaller carbon footprint for everyday travellers, forestry operations, as well as reducing road maintenance costs on existing routes.
Chief Lorraine Crane from Slate Falls has also reiterated her support for the project and is particularly impressed that, “the ferry could save 100 km of driving for community members to get to Dryden or other municipalities to the south.” Chief Crane is also excited for the potential opportunities that value-added manufacturing can bring in terms of jobs for the local community. The ideas and opinions of community members were sought during a series of open houses in Lac Seul First Nation and Slate Falls Nation in October and more are planned for the new year.
The study aims to identify which opportunities will have the greatest benefits to local communities, the regional economy and the environment. Jack Harrison, Forestlands Manager from Domtar, one of the key industry partners, says that his company is “Looking forward to participating in this study, as efforts to reduce our environmental impact is an important goal of Domtar.” The project aims to determine what environmental benefits, if any, the proposed transportation improvements will include.
The General Manager of ORC, Bert Hennessey, expects the work to be completed by March 31st, noting that “This is an aggressive timeline. However, we anticipate completion is possible due to the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that already exists between the communities and industry partners.”
Doug Lawrance, Mayor of Sioux Lookout, is also excited about the project’s potential, adding that, “The Municipality of Sioux Lookout works closely with both Lac Seul First Nation and Slate Falls First Nation on economic development initiatives. We are very supportive of Obishikokaang Resources Corporation. There are significant forest resources in this area and the development of a value-added processing plant will allow those resources to more fully benefit the area First Nations and the Municipality of Sioux Lookout. We are excited by this announcement and look forward to hearing more details from Chief Bull and Chief Crane.”
This contribution is an important step forward in securing the future economic prosperity of the region, and the ORC would like to thank the federal government, specifically the Strategic Partnerships Initiative, for their support and leadership in promoting Aboriginal economic interests in Northwestern Ontario.