A new exploration benefit agreement between Denison Mines and Far North First Nations and communities is being hailed as a step in the right direction. Denison is committing to meaningful engagement on proposed uranium developments in the Athabasca Region.

“There aren’t any other agreements like this in Northern Saskatchewan, where you actually formalize the process of working through regulatory approvals, respecting Indigenous Rights, sharing benefits, those are not codified in any existing agreement related to exploration agreements right now, are two exploration activities,” said David Coates President and CEO of Denison Mines.

The deal could see training and employment opportunities, business opportunities, environmental protection, and financial contributions to the Hatchet Lake Denesułiné First Nation, Black Lake Denesułiné First Nation, Fond du Lac Denesułiné First Nation and the communities of Stony Rapids, Uranium City, Wollaston Lake, and Camsell Portage.

“Our increased participation and the benefits from projects happening on our Traditional Territory will help to meet the needs of our growing First Nation and those of our neighbouring communities in the Athabasca Basin. This Agreement represents a meaningful step forward in reconciliation, respect for Indigenous rights, and in providing opportunities for our people,” Chief Kevin Mercredi, Fond du Lac First Nation said.

Cates explained that what makes this agreement unique is that First Nations and communities will see benefits early in the project stage. Typically benefit agreements are prepared for when a mine is in operation. Yet Cates said mining companies see benefits well before a mine is in production.

“This agreement represents a very important milestone toward establishing respectful and mutually beneficial relationships that will lead to long-term benefits for our community members. The increased training, employment and business opportunities, along with the financial contributions will help to strengthen our communities and create a better future for our children, while protecting our rights and our lands,” said Chief Bart Tsannie, Hatchet Lake First Nation.

The agreement ensures that Denison conducts exploration in a sustainable manner while respecting Treaty Rights and advancing reconciliation.

(With file from Michael Joel-Hanson. Photo of Fond du Lac First Nation Chief Kevin Mercredi, seated on his left are Black Lake First Nation Chief Coreen Sayazie and Chief Bart Tsannie, Hatchet Lake First Nation. Credit: Michael Joel-Hanson.)