By Raven Brass

Musk FN mine 1

Chief Bellerose addressed concerns expressed by a member of Muskowekwan FN about the plan to share the resource revenue. Right: Encanto Potash Corp president Stavros Navros, FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. Photo credit: Raven Brass.

Chief Reginald Bellerose of Muskowekwan FN is making first-time waves in the economic development and distribution of potash through First Nations land.

The Muskowekwan Chief and Encanto Potash Corp. are working together in preparation of finalizing a multi billion-dollar exporting deal with Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation (MMTC) of India.  MMTC Limited of India, a state-owned enterprise, is India’s second largest trading house for various commodities. The Muskowekwan FN would become a major supplier of potash for the India based company, potentially making it one of the largest projects in the country on reserve land. (The current largest on reserve project is a jail on the Oysoyoos FN in B.C).

At a press conference held in Regina, SK, for the project, Encanto’s president, Stavros Navros, was in attendance to speak about the recent activities regarding the current major deal.

“After about 10 trips to India in the last 15 months we were able to secure a committed quantity of potash with the effect of two million tons on an annual basis, the ramp up and deliverables are going to be based on future discussions that have to do with when the mine will be ready and when we will be able to allow customers to be able to accept it,” said Navros.

The deal could potentially open up more additional opportunities for the exchange of commodities such as pulse crops, lentils, coal and many more that First Nations land has access to produce.

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron spoke about the positive benefits and effects this type of deal could have for First Nations people. He said they have already had discussions with Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and other ministers of the country in hopes of seeing the very huge project happen and how it can benefit everyone.

“Our job at the FSIN is to provide that political support, the political lobbying and the political advocating for any of our 74 First Nations and Muskowekwan being the first of its kind in Canada, the first, First Nations country to have the opportunity to have a 100 percent share in natural resource development,” said Cameron.

Cameron then congratulated the Chief and council of Muskowekwan and Navros on making this a day to be remembered for many years to come.

“Once we really address the big issue of the natural resources transfer agreement, it’s not just potash, it’s oil and gas, it’s uranium, it’s diamonds, it’s forestry so this is going to open many, many doors,” said Cameron.

Before Chief Reginald Bellerose took to the podium, an off-reserve member from the Muskowekwan FN spoke out and questioned Chief Bellerose’s intentions for the project’s revenue and raised concerns about how it will be distributed throughout Muskowekwan FN.

Chief Bellerose replied that they are trying to generate their own source revenue so they can meet the demands of First Nations people and the ones who reside off reserve as well.

“We’ve hired a financial expert who put together a 30-year financial plan for Muskowekwan and in that plan, it calls for the education to be addressed, language and culture, safety, so there’s priorities put together by experts of which I’m not, but we will hire those experts and it calls for how money will be distributed,” said Reginald.

The execution of the mineral lease during the fall season will be the first of its kind in the country through Indian mining regulations. The people of Muskowekwan FN have also voted on the project, 420 voting yes and 80 voting no.

“I have to go with the majority, the majority speaks and the majority governs,” said Reginald.

Muskowekwan FN has partnered with the First Nations Metis fund, a fund between Indian Affairs and the province, and borrowed $3 million from the fund to put private placement into Encanto, of which they received 12 million shares and about 8 million warrants held in a trust fund handled by Westcap, until the 3 million is paid back. Muskowekwan is the only First Nations in Saskatchewan with equity in a publicly traded company.

Encanto is also the only company on First Nations land and one of the reasons why Muskowekwan is in partnership with them, focusing on on-reserve development.

“This is what I’ve been busting my butt for, is for people to not live on $255 a month, who wants to live on that? That’s the most important thing, hopefully in the future our children have jobs, have careers have opportunities I don’t see welfare as a treaty right, (or) welfare as a way of the future,” said Bellerose.

The strategy beyond Encanto Potash is to develop the First Nations trading company, allowing the First Nations people to benefit first for themselves and for their communities, basically establishing an international position in a big industry internationally. Navros spoke out more about the vision that Encanto has for the project with Muskowekwan FN.

“What I want is for this potash project to come up as the example that everybody else would follow in excellence for industry. So if we’re doing something that’s not, as Chief Bellerose put it to me, ‘the right to consult, but really the right of accommodation’ which is what I’m translating to, the right of ownership, the right of decision, the First Nations people aren’t going to have to ask us for jobs. The First Nations people automatically get the jobs because they’re the ones deciding what the jobs are. It really has to be a First Nations initiative.”

The project is currently in feasibility studies so they can determine when the start up date for it will be. Stavros is also planning to meet with the band members of Muskowekwan to further discuss the project with them.

“It’s a joint venture that has its terms, going forward what we are doing with the Muskowekwan First Nation and the people are really looking at the relationship on a go forward basis where the first winner are the peoples of the First Nations and making it a First Nations business,” Navros said. “And I can guarantee that if I am involved on it, First Nations are winning.”

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  1. Reg Bugler

    Something of interest for consideration as a result of the future young benificuaries of Muskowgun First Nation. Fifty years ago the 4 Bands of Hobbema Alberta came across a similar Economic Iniative for financial wealth for all 4 Bands and their membership. They made a crucial mistake when it came to setting up financial trust accounts for the ones under the age of 18 years old. They should of set strict conditions for membership to attain a grade 12 graduation certificate in order to receive the full amout of their trust monies when they turned 18 years of age. Just my views on Trusts for any Band put Educational Conditions on them so that the young people don’t just sit back and wait for their eligibility to mature. “With Respect”

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