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Partnership for camp construction to provide employment
Temporary housing for BHP Billiton Jansen potash mine workers will provide construction and long-term service jobs for three First Nations in the region.
George Gordon, Day Star and Kawacatoose First Nations have formed a partnership with ATCO Structures and Logistics to build the camp which will house approximately 2,600 mine workers. But employment opportunities for the three First Nations members will go beyond initial construction to long-term jobs in services such as catering and housekeeping. ATCO is also bidding on shared-support services for the entire mine site, including maintaining roadways, which could provide additional employment opportunities for First Nations members.
ATCO initially approached George Gordon First Nation about the partnership. Through discussion with them, said Cole Crook, senior manager, business development-Aboriginal, it became apparent that other First Nations in the region should be included. George Gordon Chief Glen Pratt spoke to Day Star and Kawacatoose First Nations about their potential involvement.
“This partnership with ATCO will improve the skills and training of our people and increase our capacity to gain meaningful employment,” said Pratt, in a news release.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us. It’s a benefit for all the First Nations involved,” said Lorraine Demarais, band administrator for Day Star. “For a small band like ours, being part of this has huge benefits.”
This partnership is one of many that ATCO has with First Nations throughout the country, said Crook, noting that ATCO’s history is built on such relationships.
“It makes a great deal of sense (to partner). They’re an excellent source of labour because typically they’re underemployed and there’s generally a lot of capable people in the region,” said Crook. “It’s part of our commitment to be a responsible operator and to engaging people from the communities and areas in which we work.”
This camp “is a very big one, in terms of build and operate,” said Crook, adding that it is unusual to have something this large outside of oil sands operations. The Touchwood Area camp will consist of two pre-engineered buildings, lodgings for 2,580 beds in 160 sq. ft. bedrooms with private washrooms, an outdoor arena, a 200-seat movie theatre, dining hall, a 20,000 sq. ft. sports complex with a gymnasium, library, convenience store, and medical centre.
The agreement between ATCO and the First Nations does not set a figure as to the percentage of First Nations employed on the site.
“If we could draw from the communities 100 per cent of our labour force that would be delightful. But reality is, I don’t know if we’ll be able to do that. But we’re going to maximize it, so initially we’re hoping for 30 per cent or better. The target is better,” said Crook.
The initial phases of employment will be for construction, which is expected to get underway this spring. The first phase of construction will comprise 500 rooms, which is to be operational by October 2012. Completion of the accommodations and facilities is scheduled for mid-2013. Construction is expected to employ between 100-150.
Crook said ATCO is committed to providing training for the on-going jobs that will be available once the camp is up and running. Discussions have already begun with the Saskatchewan Indian Institution of Technologies about offering programs that provide the necessary skills to service the camp, such as catering, housekeeping, and managing the recreational facilities. Other institutions will also be approached. An employment and training centre will be established on First Nations territory. Crook said the operations of the camp will employ upwards of 250.
Demarais said Day Star is in the process of taking an inventory of the skills members already have and where training will be necessary. The First Nation has 470 members.
“More people will get trained, whether they will go work at the (camp) site or not,” said Demarais.
ATCO’s multi-million dollar contract with BHP Billiton is to design and construct the Touchwood area camp as well as three years of operations.
BHP Billiton could put the operations out for tender after the three years or ATCO’s contract could be extended, said Crook.
The camp could be in operation for 60 years.
“We’re certainly looking forward to continued work with our partners in the potash belt in Saskatchewan. We see this as a long term play and we’re hoping that our partnership will last 10, 20 years or better. We could chase a number of opportunities and we’re hoping this is the first of many,” said Crook.
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