The proposed gold mine, just 22 kilometres from the Kluskus Reserve #1 as the crow flies, now has an early works permit to start site preparation and land clearing.

Neil Gauthreau is the band’s Natural Resources Manager…

“This project presents a very real opportunity for our nation to be able to start actually developing and building businesses, and building companies and getting into the employment training, and to really be part of a larger economy.   It’s been a driving force us here at the nation to start looking at what the community needs are, and to start addressing those needs.”

In terms of how many jobs the mine may provide, Gauthreau says the agreement they have with Artemis is to work towards a 25 percent soft target of aboriginal employment.

“If I had everybody trained and ready to go today I wouldn’t be able to fill all the jobs.  Chief Lilian was very forward thinking in that saying it doesn’t necessarily have to be Lhuskooz Dene.  It could be Red Bluff or Lhtako, it could be Nazko, it could be anybody of aboriginal decent or aboriginal heritage.”

457 direct full-time jobs are expected during the 23-year operating life of the mine.

Gauthreau says they have set up a training employment society that involves the Nazko First Nation as well as the Lhtako Dene.

“To really give our people the ability to come to one place in a culturally appropriate way, and get the training and the upgrading, and to get them to a place that they would like to be ultimately with meaningful long term employment.”

Gauthreau says they were also part of the environmental assessment process and had a voice in making sure there was a balance between the economy and the environment.

“Absolutely, that was one of the things that was front and center for us is to go through the environmental assessments, to be working with the federal and the provincial regulators to ensure that our voice was heard, to ensure that the environment was taken care of.  ”

Gauthreau says for the band, the mine has been also been a catalyst for other projects as well.

“We’ve just recently got our water treatment plant up and running.  We’re working on a biomass project to be able to start turning all of the dead and dying beetle kill trees into chips to be able to create heat and energy for our community, to reduce our carbon footprint and our reliance on diesel.”

He says they will also be able to kick start the regeneration process of the trees that are out there by replanting them.