Saskatchewan village reaps benefits from deal with uranium companies

VILLAGE OF PINEHOUSE, Sask. – It’s been just over a year since a small village in northern Saskatchewan signed a major deal with two uranium mining companies and the mayor says the community is already seeing dividends.

Cameco and Areva signed a $200 million collaboration agreement with Pinehouse and Kineepik Métis Local in late 2012.

Pinehouse Mayor Mike Natomagan points to the recent $1.3 million invested in the hockey arena to install an artificial ice plant and $6 million in wages, work placements and scholarships as just two of the positive benefits the collaboration agreement has brought.

Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel says his company reaps many benefits from its mining activities in northern Saskatchewan and feels it has a corporate responsibility to invest in communities such as Pinehouse.

However, not all reaction to the agreement has been positive.

The agreement is currently the subject of two lawsuits — one by local community members and the other by Briarpatch Magazine in response to a failure by the village to comply with a freedom of information request.

“Soon as you involve money in a little aboriginal community like this, there’s always been lack of trust and we expect that and in fact we encourage that for people to disagree with us,” Natomagan said.

“When I go over to the skating rink here in Pinehouse, see the kids out here, see the families that are enjoying these facilities, see the positive energy over lunch — those are the people we focus on.”

A new annual report also says Pinehouse Business North provided a little over $19 million in contracting services to Cameco and Areva mine sites in 2013.

A special community event was held in Pinehouse on Wednesday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the collaboration agreement.

“I think we have a responsibility as a company to give back, to be involved in the areas in which we operate to give back to the communities, to work with the communities, to help where we can develop them,” Gitzel says.

“We can’t solve all the issues anywhere but we can do our part.”