First Nation assumes stake in diamond driller
Webiquie First Nation, a remote community 540 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, has entered into a joint venture with Winnipeg-based Cyr Drilling International and a group of private investors to provide diamond drilling services in Ontario.
Located 50 kilometres from the highly prospective Ring of Fire region, Webiquie is ideally positioned to take advantage of diamond drilling and other exploration-related business opportunities in what promises to be Ontario’s next big mining camp.
According to the terms of the agreement, Webiquie assumes a 20 per cent interest in Cyr Drilling Ontario Inc. and will be able to purchase full ownership of the company from Cyr Drilling International and the private investor group in 2013.
“We looked at the possibility of getting into the business several years ago, but lacked the expertise and weren’t able to get it going,” said Webiquie First Nation Chief Scott Jacob. The possibility of a joint venture with Webiquie resurfaced when Cyr Drilling entered into discussions with private investors to take advantage of Ring of Fire business opportunities.
“We had heard that (Webiquie) was interested in getting into the drilling business to create employment for members of their community, so we approached Chief Jacob and asked him if he wanted to get involved,” said Gord Cyr, president of Cyr Drilling International. “He saw the opportunity and we went forward with it.”
Ring of Fire
There are currently six or seven drills in the Ring of Fire, but there could be as many as 16 by the fall, said Jacob. With just two units in its fleet, Cyr Drilling Ontario is the new kid on the block. However, as junior mining companies seek to accommodate Webiquie’s interest in taking advantage of business opportunities in the region, the First Nation’s participation in Cyr Drilling could fuel its growth.
“The mid-to-long-term goal,” said Jacob, “is to operate across Ontario. Other drilling companies started small and now they’re well known international companies working in Russia, Mexico, you name it. Our ultimate goal as First Nation people is to see our members become experts in drilling as well.”
Webiquie is also benefiting from other business spinoffs. It supplies fuel, operates a motel and a guesthouse and supplies trained and certified personnel for claim staking and line cutting.
As part of the arrangement with Cyr Drilling International, Webiquie residents
are being trained as diamond drill helpers and in other aspects of the business, including warehouse and stockroom operations.
According to Cyr, the community’s all-weather airstrip, its strategic location near the Ring of Fire discoveries and its available pool of labour makes for an ideal partnership.
Webiquie’s openness to the mining industry enjoys wide support within the community, said Jacob.
“We’ve heard through our community membership that we should explore whatever options are out there. We’ve been told many times that we can’t afford to sit back and watch the whole thing happen without getting involved.”
Webiquie leaders have also had discussions with neighbouring First Nation communities with a view to pooling their resources and collectively participating in the eventual purchase of the company.
“We’ve been actively seeking strategic and willing business partners to increase employment and training prospects for our people and to benefit from the growing mining activity in our traditional lands,” said Jacob. “I sincerely believe that this joint venture will give us the necessary foundation to be a significant industry player in Northern Ontario. This is a positive step towards achieving our community vision of building economic prosperity and self-sufficiency for the people of Webiquie First Nation.”
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