Nemaska (Cree: namesiskâw, meaning lots of fish) is a Cree community located on the shores of Champion Lake, about 30 km west of the Whabouchi mine site, in the Eeyou Istchee James Bay region (population of 712 people in 2011). Nemaska is the seat of the Grand Council of the Crees and Cree Nation Government. It is a new and modern village that consists of Cree families originally living in the vicinity of the former Nemiscau trading post on Lake Nemiscau. The community of Nemaska was indeed initially settled on the shores of that lake where a trading post was established in the early 18th century. As a result of Hydro-Quebec development projects in 1970s, the community was relocated on the shores of Champion Lake in 1978.

Nemaska is nowadays accessible by air through daily flights by Air Creebec and is linked through the Route du Nord to both the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region (via the James Bay Road) and the Chibougamau and the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region.

Nemaska is characterized by a large youth population, representing in 2011 almost half of the total population. Because it acts as the Cree Nation’s administrative center, sales and services as well as social sciences, education and government related occupations are the major occupational fields in Nemaska.

The Cree Nation of Nemaska and Nemaska Lithium have developed a good relationship since inception of the Company.

Indeed, early in the preliminary phases of development of the Whabouchi mine project, Nemaska Lithium devoted significant time and resources to ensure the concrete and constructive involvement of the various stakeholders, including the Cree Nation of Nemaska. Even before launching the environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) process, the local authorities of the Nemaska Cree community took part in information and consultation activities.

Since 2009, the Crees have been actively involved in various aspects of the project through the various activities that were undertaken to inform stakeholders about the project and take stock of their concerns relative to the project and its potential environmental and social impacts. During these information and consultation activities, various topics were discussed including open-pit mining procedures, the main infrastructure planned for the project and the life cycle of the mine.

In November 2011, Nemaska Lithium implemented its communication and consultation plan, which included various activities as follows:

  • Meetings with the Nemaska Band council;
  • Interviews with members of the Nemaska community and local organizations;
  • Meetings with tallymen and other users of Cree territory;
  • Discussion groups;
  • Meetings with members of the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) which was set up to provide a platform for exchanges between the proponent and the various stakeholders in the Nemaska community;
  • Field visits;
  • Hiring of a community liaison officer.

The comments, concerns, demands and suggestions expressed by stakeholders during the information and consultation activities were documented and compiled by topic. Following the filing of the ESIA in April 2013, Nemaska Lithium and its consultants were still actively involved in the public information and consultation sessions held in Nemaska by the Cree Nation Government’s Environment and Remedial Works Department and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).

consultation Nemaska

The comments and concerns that emerged from these diverse consulting activities led Nemaska Lithium to re-assess the Whabouchi project and its components within the framework of a feasibility study (FS). To address people’s apprehensions, the project was optimized and many project components that initially posed problems were significantly revised from a technical, economic, environmental and social standpoint. For example, from the Preliminary Economic Assessment to the Feasibility Study, the location of key infrastructures such as the waste rock and tailings management pile and the water management facilities were moved away from Mountain Lake. Also, it was decided that blasting will be done once weekly with a planned shutdown of the mine during the traditional goose hunting season (Goose Break). Since Nemaska Lithium has some flexibility in this regard, the weekly blasting schedule will also be established following discussion with the Nemaska Cree community and the Environment Committee set up under the Chinuchi Agreement and adapted to specific situations.

  

Milestones

In August 2009, the financial arm of the Cree community, Nemaska Development Corporation, agreed to purchase shares in Nemaska Lithium, therefore ensuring their financial participation in the development of the project.

In the fall 2009, discussions where held on negotiating and signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the community and Nemaska Lithium that recognized the respective rights and expectations of the parties, and particularly the need for the company to respect Cree culture and traditions in its activities on the territory. The MOU was signed in August 2010.

In November 2014, the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), the Cree Nation Government, the Cree Nation of Nemaska and Nemaska Lithium announced that they have entered into the Chinuchi Agreement regarding the development and operation of Nemaska Lithium's Whabouchi Project. The mine site is located in the traditional territory of the Cree Nation of Nemaska. The Chinuchi Agreement is a binding agreement that will govern the long-term working relationship between Nemaska Lithium and the Cree parties during all phases of the Whabouchi Lithium Project.

Community approval was expressed through the support of the Chief and Council of the Cree Nation of Nemaska on September 18, 2014. The approval of the Chinuchi Agreement by the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) and the Cree Nation Government on September 23, 2014, represents the support of the Cree Nation as a whole, and ensures a stable regional environment for the development and operation of Nemaska Lithium's project.

After extensive and cooperative negotiations, the Cree announced that they were satisfied that concerns expressed regarding a range of issues, including business opportunities, training and employment, as well as other matters, will be addressed by Nemaska Lithium. The Agreement, which will be in effect throughout the life of the mine, contains pertaining to training, employment and business opportunities for the Crees during construction, operation and closure of the mine. In addition, the parties have established a framework to ensure Cree involvement and participation in environmental matters, such as monitoring, mitigation and closure. The Chinuchi Agreement reflects the commitment of the Crees to collaborate with Nemaska Lithium during the development and operations of this new mine in the Eeyou Istchee territory. Moreover, the Agreement aligns the parties' respective interests in the economic success of the project and ensures that the Crees will receive financial benefits from the project in compliance with the best practices in the industry and with the Cree Nation Mining Policy.