In recent years, Aboriginal communities across Northern Ontario have been integral in the development and redevelopment of hydroelectric power stations in the region. By forging successful, mutually-beneficial partnerships with business and government, Aboriginal      are taking a leading role in powering Northern Ontario with clean, renewable energy.

Lower Mattagami Project

A joint venture between Ontario Power Generation and the Moose Cree First Nation, the Lower Mattagami Hydroelectric Project involves the redevelopment of four existing hydro stations that are located 70 km north of Kapuskasing on the Mattagami River. 

When complete, the project will be responsible for adding 438 megawatts (MW) of clean, emission-free electricity to the output of the stations. This will take the total electricity produced by the four generating stations to 924 MW — enough electricity to power around 700,000 homes. 

As stipulated by the Amisk-oo-skow agreement, the Moose Cree First Nation will own a 25 percent equity stake in the project. Moose Cree businesses have also been awarded over $300 million worth of sub contracts since the project began four years ago and, at peak construction, over 250 First Nation and Métis workers were employed by the project directly. 

Power of partnership

“The partnership between the Moose Cree First Nation and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has really helped my community, where a lot of people are employed today,” said Chief of the Moose Cree First Nation, Norman Hardisty. “It has really turned things around for us. Each community in Canada, whether you’re First Nations or not, is trying to build an economy, and I think that’s where we’re heading.”

“It has really turned things around for us. Each community in Canada, whether you’re First Nations or not, is trying to build an economy, and I think that’s where we’re heading.” 

Three years in and the $2.6 billion project — the biggest in Northeastern Ontario for 40 years — is continuing to hit its schedule and budget targets, something Dick Jessop, OPG’s project director, puts down to good planning. “We did a lot of the design work before we sought approval for release of the project,” said Jessop.  “And we did about 25 percent of the engineering work - 300 detailed engineering drawings — over a 12 month period so that we could get a detailed estimate of the project.” 

The project has been an unmitigated success for everybody involved, and will play a significant role in providing Northern Ontario with clean energy in the decades to come. 

“There have been so many positive things that have come out of this,” said Chief Hardisty. “The Moose Cree people are very appreciative of the partnership that they have with OPG and all of the other First Nations people that have been involved — it has been a great project.” 

Lac Seul Generating Station

Earlier this year, the Lac Seul First Nation and OPG celebrated the fifth year anniversary of their partnership in the operation of the Lac Seul Generating Station, which came online on Feb. 18, 2009. 

Also known by its Ojibway name of Obishikokaang Waasiganikewigamig, meaning White Pine Narrows Generating Station, the 12-megawatt unit located on the English River is capable of generating approximately 52 million kilowatts of hydroelectricity per year: that’s enough electricity to meet the annual demand of 5,000 homes.

“I am particularly proud of this partnership,”  said Mike Martelli, Senior Vice President, Hydro Thermal Operations at OPG. “I want to thank the Lac Seul First Nation for their continuing commitment and support, which has been so instrumental in making this partnership a success.”

Mutually beneficial collaboration

This supremely successful partnership was the first of its kind and paved the way for other larger projects, like Lower Mattagami. As well as providing clean, renewable energy to thousands of Ontarian homes, the generating station is also a sustainable financial asset for the Lac Seul First Nation, who have a 25 percent share in the station. 

“For five years, this partnership has provided our community with a source of revenue that has enabled us to create economic opportunities, joint ventures, and training programs that have enhanced Lac Seul First Nation’s ability to move forward down the road to self sufficiency and self determination,” said Chief of the Lac Seul First Nation, Clifford Bull.