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Lake Superior communities create port authority

Town of Marathon, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg ink joint venture agreement to establish commercial harbour

The two neighbouring communities have teamed up to establish the only commercial harbour and port authority on the Canadian side of Lake Superior between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay.

Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (formerly Pic River First Nation) and the Town of Marathon have signed a legally binding shareholder agreement to formally establish the Peninsula Harbour Port Authority Corporation. 

A Nov. 17 news release said the creation and operation of a commercial port will create jobs and economic development opportunities in servicing the mining, forestry, logistics and manufacturing sectors “while respecting the environment and Lake Superior.”

Marathon is the north shore of Lake Superior about half-way between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay on the Trans-Canada Highway. 

The 50/50 joint venture will be governed by a board of directors that includes Biigtigong Nishnaabeg Chief Duncan Michano and Juanita Starr, the community’s director of sustainable development, along with Marathon Mayor Rick Dumas and his CAO Daryl Skworchinski.

“Biigtigong Nishnaabeg are pleased to enter into a partnership with the Town of Marathon to officially create the Port Authority which will operate a commercial port at the site of the former mill site dock,” said Michano in a news release. “We look forward to the economic opportunities this will bring to both Biigtigong and Marathon. When we work together, we prosper together. Miigwetch.”

“We are pleased to announce this new partnership with Biigtigong Nishnaabeg,” added Dumas. “We have worked in partnership on this concept for several years now, so it is exciting to see that we are moving forward with this project and unlocking its economic potential. This will be a critical development to help build and sustain the local and regional economy and create new business and industry opportunities.”

The establishment of a port authority is the start of a revival of a former commercial harbour dating back more than a century to Marathon's historic forestry industry days.

The physical site for the port is on the former Marathon Pulp mill property. That mill closed in 2009 with the loss of 230 jobs. The mill buildings have been demolished and the brownfield and once-working harbour have been cleaned of industrial contaminants.  

The port is also part of a budding economic reconnaissance along the north shore of Lake Superior. 

Just 10 kilometres north of Marathon, Toronto’s Generation Mining is preparing to start construction of an open-pit palladium mine in early 2023, pending government approval of the project. 

Biigtigong Nishnaabeg also stands to capture some of the economic benefits of the mine development.

The community of 1,200 recently inked a community impact benefits agreement with Gen Mining to secure future jobs and business spinoffs from the mine. The pit development will create about 1,000 construction jobs and employment for 400 when the mine is in operation.