At Osisko Mining, we were fortunate to work collaboratively with the Cree Nation Government to develop a very strong Covid-19 protocol. This collaboration allowed the Windfall project to be the first site on the Eeyou Istchee James Bay territory to benefit from an exemption to the local mandatory self-isolation law for workers living in Cree communities.
A LABORATORY ON THE WINDFALL SITE TO PROTECT EVERYONE’S HEALTH
We must protect the health and safety of all employees and contractors working on the project. We need to provide them the confidence that we were doing everything possible to prevent Covid-19. The purchase and operation of an on-site laboratory is an elementary conclusion for us knowing that it might be impossible to operate a truly safe worksite without this equipment. Setting up the test facility at Windfall represents a significant investment, approximately $400,000 with operating costs of approximately $100,000 per month.
“Having the laboratory on site provides a certain peace of mind for all of the people working at Windfall, their families, local communities, the Cree Nation and all of our stakeholders.”
Mathieu Savard, President.
A CRUCIAL EXEMPTION FOR OUR WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Following the August 18 exemption from the local self-isolation laws, more than 90 First Nation people are now back working on the Windfall site.Without this exemption, our workers faced a mandatory 14-day isolation period on returning to their communities before returning to their next shift at Windfall.
“This meant that during their isolation, they were not allowed to have any contact with their loved ones – it was heartbreaking. Many of our workers then opted for a temporary layoff.”
Alix Drapack, Senior Vice President, Sustainable Development.
All employees and contractors are tested on the first day of their work rotation. They are all retested on the 10th day of their rotation. Workers coming from Cree communities are also tested on the day they depart from the site (day 14) and given a letter stating the results of their test. This letter is also emailed to the General Manager and the Public Safety Office of the Cree community. A negative test permits the Cree workers returning to their community to be exempted from the mandatory two-week self-isolation law.
ROBUST PROTOCOLS DEVELOPED WITH OUR PARTNERS
Our protocols and preventive Covid-19 measures are the result of numerous exchanges with the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay, provincial public health and our contractors. We have put in place a series of prevention measures ranging from pre-triage to transportation to the site, through the redesign of our facilities and work schedules to accommodate physical distancing and a review of our ways of performing tasks. We also set up an internal monitoring committee and a committee with the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi and the Cree Nation Government. These committees followed the gradual resumption of our activities in the spring and are an effective and transparent way to communicate information if a positive case arises.
“I will always be grateful to Osisko for standing with the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi during our time of need. Their help is not a handout but rather an investment in my people so that we can build a strong and sustainable project allowing Cree workers to be proud providers for their families without having to risk their health.”
Chief Marcel Happyjack said in a release issued by the Cree Nation Government.
“Actions like those of Osisko demonstrate that natural resource development doesn’t have to be just about taking or extracting but rather contributing to community life and helping to make us all stronger. If all developers in our territory behaved like this, our region and the Cree Nation could be even greater contributors to what will need to be the greatest economic recovery in the history of Quebec.”
Grand Chief Dr. Abel Bosum in a release issued by the Cree Nation Government.
It is certain that Covid-19 pandemic will stay in our memories as a challenging event in different domains of our lives, but it was also an opportunity where we proved that by showing solidarity we find solutions and accomplish great things.
In June 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) published their final report. The report included a “Deeper Dive into Resource Extraction projects” and also outlined “Calls for Justice for Extractive and Development Industries”. As a mining exploration company working on the traditional territory of the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi, we put together a plan to address the concerns raised in the report.
We hire a diverse workforce and strive to hire women and members of First Nation communities. We work to improve the workforce’s awareness of cultural diversity. We also award contracts to enterprises hiring First Nation workers.
Empowering, Pride and Accomplishment
We empower First Nation women by providing meaningful employment to ensure their financial security and autonomy. We also give them opportunities to develop their expertise.
Safe and Supportive Environment
We provide a safe workplace and enforce strict policies prohibiting violence, harassment, and the use of drugs and alcohol. We provide support for the well-being of our First Nation workforce through our onsite nurses and First Nation Human Resources Facilitator. We also hired a Community Liaison Advisor based in Waswanipi.
Our culture is shaped by innovative thinking and practices that redefine the way we manage our activities. We constantly question our way of doing things.
This led us to review our selection criteria when hiring new operators for the water treatment unit. Removing unnecessary barriers – such as a high school diploma, when the operator most needs a willingness to learn – would provide access to a new position category. Senior Technicians now train and teach the basic concepts of the job, share their experience and provide support and supervision. They also developed a training program with an evaluation to make sure the new operators fully understand the water treatment process and the importance of this position. This initiative led to training four new Water Treatment Operators, two of them from the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi. This is just one example of including our host communities in our workforce. Protection of the environment is a priority for Osisko Mining and for the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi. By having two water treatment operators from Waswanipi, we ensure that the community has an active role in monitoring the quality of our effluent.