We Are All Treaty People

Filter Initiatives

Multimillion dollar Aboriginal-owned company creating sustainable wealth for its communities

Treaty 10

Athabasca Basin Development, a company dedicated to building long-term wealth and investments for indigenous people in Northern Saskatchewan has based its profits solely on the strong partnerships they have developed within the Aboriginal/First Nations communities. The company believes that standing united as a region has been incredibly beneficial not just to the economic stability of their region but to the overall development of these communities and has put in place sustainable wealth for future generations.

Kristy Jackson, Director of Marketing and Communications at the company says the commitment by the owners, the seven communities that came together to build this company in 2002, has allowed the company to earn some $127 million over the past 14 years, with over 1,000 people employed as a result of these partnerships and investments in the region.

Athabasca Basin hosts the world’s richest high-grade uranium deposits. The northern area covers almost a quarter of Saskatchewan and a small portion of Alberta, and currently supplies about 20 per cent of the world’s uranium. The region is also the home of seven, largely Dene First Nations, communities.

Kristy Jackson talked with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner about these partnerships that have tremendously benefited indigenous communities.

Q: How did Athabasca Basin Development come to be? What was the reason for pursuing this partnership between the different communities?
The company was formed back in 2002 with the sole purpose of creating wealth for the communities, employment, investments and subsequently make it sustainable for future generations.

Essentially, seven communities in the region came together to form this company after identifying opportunities and economic activities that could benefit the overall development of the region. This unity was key in our development and basically if it weren’t for the union, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

It originally started with a road maintenance contract with Sask. Highway and then it evolved because there were a lot of mining activities and new opportunities in the region. Leadership at the time wanted to maximize on the new opportunities to create a sustainable company for future generations because they knew they needed employment and wealth for the communities. They also knew they needed to prepare for when the mines were no longer available.

Q: Which communities are involved in the partnership?
The communities that came together to form this important partnership are: Hatchet Lake First Nation, Black Lake First Nation, Fond du Lac First Nation, Northern Hamlet of Stony Rapids, Northern Settlement of Wollaston Lake, Northern Settlement of Uranium City and Northern Settlement of Camsell Portage.  We have ownership by three First Nations communities and four settlements. However, the population is primarily Aboriginal even though there are three First Nations communities that own the company.

Q: In what ways have the indigenous communities primarily benefitted from these partnerships?
Primarily, we are building long-term wealth through investments for the communities, particularly the First Nations communities. The communities benefit through financial donations and distributions of the shares while some of the benefits are intangible such as building a great reputation. The company’s value has grown tremendously over the years and we’ve been able to give thousands in donations that have improved some aspects of the communities. For example, in 2013, $249,000 was donated to the region to improve cellular service there. This brought $6 million worth of cell towers which were officially opened in December 2015.

The communities are also proud of a company that they built that has garnered a great reputation that helps with investment opportunities.

Additionally, the company is committed to hiring people from the Athabasca region and Aboriginal people as much as possible. Also, many of our investments go into training programs to help with transferable skills and to attain meaningful employment beyond our company. When people in the region are employed to external companies, we don’t see this as a loss but a gain because of the training they’ve acquired. We also just work with local subcontractors and that also help provide more economic activities in the communities. We also ensure we lend our executive experiences to the communities involved.

Q: How has the partnerships affected reconciliation between those communities?
A: Our shareholders are united to start with. Seven communities got together and decided that together we are stronger. The communities have remained united for the past 14 years and this level of discipline is very impressive.

Q: What has the response/feedback been like from the First Nation/Aboriginal communities?
A: It’s been very positive. Some communities may often ask questions on things they may not be clear on like their dividends and when we meet and explain things to them, the end result has always been positive. We’ve invited other groups for potential investments and this benefits the entire community. They appreciate the knowledge that is shared among the communities and we don’t have competition with other First Nations groups, instead we aim to partner with them for more economic activities to create more wealth for the region. All and all, it’s been very positive.

Q: What advice would you give to other corporate enterprises looking to involve more Aboriginal/ First Nations/Metis in their operations?
A: Partnerships are important. For us, we’ve learnt that many are stronger than one. Partnerships, unity and commitment to creating wealth for the communities are important. If they’re looking to create immense wealth and overall sustainable economic development for Indigenous/Aboriginal communities, then the right partnerships are essential. Additionally, reinvestments and remaining focus are integral.

Written by Sasha-Gay Lobban

Around the Province

Previous Story Next Story