WIIKWEMKOONG – Parliamentary Assistant Dave Smith, on behalf of Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs, announced funding of $100,000 in funding to the Wikwemikong Development Commission (Enaadmaagehjik, translating to “People Helping People”) to produce an economic development plan for a pellet manufacturing plant near Nairn Centre.
“I am pleased to announce $100,000 to help the commission develop an economic development plan exploring the feasibility of building a pellet manufacturing plant in Nairn Centre,” said Mr. Smith in making the announcement. The plan has the potential to expand Wiikwemkoong’s economic base.
The plan will help determine the feasibility of building a plant capable of producing 150,000-metric tonnes of pellets per year. The pellets will be used as an alternative heating source, a cleaner technology than fossil fuels that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s right next to an existing mill, the byproducts available will be right next door the transportation corridor is right there and provides access for most of the harvesters,” said Ogimaa Duke Peltier when asked why the location chosen would be on Highway 17 near Nairn Centre.
“As the chief said, you have the by-product right there that would be waste otherwise,” said Mr. Smith. “You have all of the infrastructure there, water and electricity, without having to tear up the environment.”
“You have many producers in Canada right now who can’t keep up with the demand for pellets now,” said Ogimaa Peltier of the opportunity presented to provide an additional revenue stream for Wiikwemkoong. He pointed out that his community has been taking strides to also create a market for the product the plant will produce.
“We have transitioned a lot of the older wood stoves in our community over to the new pellet stoves,” he said. “We have moved 150 units into the homes, building up that market ourselves. We will be consuming the product ourselves as a local consumer.”
The facility is envisioned as being built on property that is being transferred to Wiikwemkoong as part of the settlement agreement on the band’s Islands Land Claim. The comment period on the claim was extended to October 5, but has now ended.