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Newmont Musselwhite Mine celebrates 25 years

Dec 12, 2022

This year, Newmont’s Musselwhite mine achieved a quarter century of commercial operation – but the story of Musselwhite started long before the mine began production in 1997. Brothers Allan and Harold Musselwhite first discovered visible gold mineralization in a quartz vein on the north side of Opapimiskan Lake while panning for gold in 1962, on the traditional territory of North Caribou Lake First Nation in Treaty 9. The brothers performed much of the early exploration work, including extensive drilling, until a syndicate of mining companies acquired the property. However, the feasibility of and method to exploit the deposit would be debated for more than three decades to come.
In 1992, Musselwhite became one of the first mines in Canada to enter into a comprehensive agreement with First Nations communities, laying the groundwork for the productive and mutually beneficial partnership that it celebrated at its silver jubilee. Musselwhite has formal agreements with the North Caribou Lake First Nation, Cat Lake First Nation, the Windigo First Nations Council, Wunnumin Lake First Nation, Kingfisher Lake First Nation, the Shibogama First Nations Council and Mishkeegogamang First Nation that guide its commitments to local communities. A feasibility study was accepted in 1996 and the mine was subsequently built over the next year.
Since the mine began production in 1997, Musselwhite has produced more than 5 million ounces of gold and deepened its relationships with its First Nations partners. In addition to providing direct employment opportunities, Musselwhite works with local businesses to procure goods and services. Musselwhite is grateful to the many businesses who provide their services to the site, including Shibogama Health, Windigo Catering, Ojijakoes Community Development Corporation, BBH Contracting, Wasaya Airways, Synterra Security and many others.


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In addition to providing direct employment opportunities, Musselwhite has also played a role in the creation of new businesses like Synterra Security. In 2011, in response to discussions Musselwhite  initiated about a need for security services, a groundbreaking agreement was signed between Kingfisher Lake, Wunnumin Lake and Naicatchewenin First Nation that made Synterra Security the first majority owned security company in Northwestern Ontario. Synterra Security officially signed a service agreement with the Musselwhite mine and hired its first six security guards that year. Today, Synterra Security has approximately 200 employees at operations across Northern Ontario, 40% of whom are Indigenous.


The Norman Patayash Wellness Centre at the Musselwhite mine was recently opened to honour Elder Norman Patayash of North Caribou Lake First Nation, who was the head trapper and land user of the territory that the proposed mine was sitting on. He believed that mining development would bring prosperity and improve quality of life, and welcomed development based on this understanding; his support directly resulted in the signing of the first Musselwhite Agreement. The centre will provide a safe space for any religious, cultural, spiritual or wellness activities.


In 2018, Musselwhite was honored to host Elders Annie Williams, Georgina Patayash and Jowin Quequish, as well as their family members, on site for National Indigenous Day before they passed. These special guests flew to the Musselwhite mine despite mobility challenges, and spoke both of their memories on the land and the intent of the Musselwhite Agreement to benefit future generations. Jowin Quequish served as Chief of North Caribou Lake First Nation at the time of signing the first Musselwhite Agreement.


On September 20, Newmont’s Musselwhite mine commemorated its 25th anniversary by hosting several hundred guests, including mine employees, Indigenous leaders and community members, government leaders and business partners. While looking back on the people and partnerships who made the first Musselwhite Agreement possible, attendees offered their congratulations on the silver jubilee.

The modern Musselwhite mine is a fly-in, fly-out operation on the southern shore of Opapimiskan Lake on the traditional lands of North Caribou Lake First Nation. The 180-square-kilometre property is located approximately 130 kilometres north of Pickle Lake and 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. This world-class gold deposit is mined from two main zones below Lake Opapimiskan. Ore is processed onsite using a circuit that includes crushing, grinding, leaching by cyanidation, carbon in pulp recovery and electrowinning.



Newmont Musselwhite was honoured to host several hundred guests, including mine employees, Indigenous leaders and community members, government leaders and business partners, to commemorate 25 years of commercial production.


“Congratulations to the Musselwhite mine on the tremendous accomplishment of 25 years of commercial production. It has been a critical element in the mining industry in the North, which in turn is a key element of Ontario’s economy and one that will continue to grow.”
George Pirie, Ontario Minister of Mines


“I want to congratulate the ownership, management and staff of Newmont Musselwhite as you celebrate 25 years of commercial production. Your contributions to the City of Thunder Bay and many other communities in the North are substantial. You were one of the first companies to develop strong relationships with Indigenous communities and partners, leading to shared wealth. Your leadership in this regard is a model for many and contributes to building a stronger and healthier Northern Ontario.”
Bill Mauro, Mayor of Thunder Bay


“I’d like to extend my congratulations to all employees, Indigenous community members and partners who were involved with this 25-year milestone of the first gold bar pour at Musselwhite in 1997. Musselwhite demonstrates the value of the northwestern Ontario mining jurisdictions and reinforces the commitment made by all to safe and responsible mining.”
Mark Rodgers, Newmont Senior Vice President for North America


“As we look forward to the future and another 25 years, let us learn from the lessons of the past. If we continue to work cooperatively and towards common interest, and respect each other for the knowledge and strength each of our parties brings to the table, I know we will face and conquer all challenges ahead. Miigwech.”
Frank McKay, CEO of Windigo First Nations Council


“I’m pleased to congratulate Musselwhite mine and Newmont on an incredible 25 years of sustainable mining and fostering of historic partnerships. Our government recognizes the value that these mines deliver to our northern and Indigenous communities, which is why we continue to work hard to find impactful ways to support the industry. Mining has delivered pivotal economic success in Ontario and together we’ll continue building on our established strengths and setting the right conditions to ensure that the sector’s best days lie ahead.”
Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Minister of Northern Development


The Musselwhite mine celebrated its silver jubilee with an event held on site. Windigo Catering, who recently won the Skookum Jim Award for Aboriginal Achievement in Canada’s Mining Sector, prepared a delicious meal. Attendees received a silver coin emblazoned with the first Musselwhite logo as a keepsake.


Newmont acquired the Musselwhite mine in 2019. Our ability to mine is dependent on the enthusiastic and ongoing support of local communities, and Musselwhite provides an outstanding example of how sustainable and responsible mining can create value, improve lives and generate strong relationships that span generations.
Coinciding with a quarter century of commercial production, Musselwhite reached another milestone in its community relationships this year – the completion and energization of the first phase of the $1.8 billion Wataynikaneyap Power project, which will connect remote First Nations to the Ontario power grid and end their reliance on diesel generators to unlock greater community development. 24 First Nations equally own a 51% interest in the Wataynikaneyap Power entity, which was originally incorporated through an agreement between 13 First Nations and Goldcorp, a predecessor of Newmont. Wataynikaneyap means “line that brings light” in Anishininiimowin and is the largest First Nations-led infrastructure project in Canada, with a goal of First Nations eventually owning 100% of this important infrastructure.
Musselwhite will remain an important pillar in the communities that it depends on, and Newmont continues to fund the programs and events that are important to its neighbours – as well as seeking creative new opportunities to improve lives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, Newmont purchased modular homes for the communities of North Caribou Lake First Nation, Wunnumin Lake First Nation and Kingfisher Lake First Nation to use as safe isolation facilities for COVID-19 positive or suspected positive individuals, and an existing building in Cat Lake was converted into an isolation facilities. The units will become shelters from family and gender-based violence when no longer needed for isolation purposes.
In 2021, Musselwhite partnered with the Oshki Wenjack Education Institute – which provides training and educational opportunities for Indigenous communities under the Nishnawbe Aski Nation – on a pre-apprentice program that provides opportunities to 12 Indigenous youth. Another example is the three-month Stope School Program, which Musselwhite delivers to candidates from signatory and affiliate communities who are interested in working in an underground mining environment.
Success stories like Musselwhite epitomize the attractiveness of the Northwestern Ontario mining jurisdiction and doing business with the First Nations whose traditional territories surround our Musselwhite operation. Newmont is proud to have inherited the Musselwhite legacy and will continue to learn from and build upon its successes as we enter the next quarter century of production.


Musselwhite is proud to be a long-time sponsor of the Underground Gym and Youth Centre, which provides free access to meals and multiple activities for Thunder Bay youth in need. The centre is dedicated to promoting and teaching fitness, healthy lifestyles, self-confidence and self-respect, and hopes to expand into providing career training opportunities to vulnerably youth, particularly in the trades; the goal is to support children in meeting their present needs while setting them up for success as they grow into adulthood. Newmont recently made a donation to support the expansion; pictured above, from left to right, are Musselwhite Sustainability and External Relations Manager Shane Matson and Underground Gym and Youth Centre Founder Peter Panetta.


Musselwhite delivers a three-month Stope School Program to candidates from signatory and affiliate communities who are interested in working in an undergrounding mining environment. Graduates learn a variety of core skills that empower them to launch a successful career in the mining industry.


Newmont has a long history of taking a leading approach to environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. These figures from our 2021 Sustainability Report show how the Musselwhite mine aligns with our purpose of creating value and improving lives through responsible and sustainable mining.

  • 1997 Started Production
  • 874 Employees & Contractors
  • 100,000 oz Annual gold production with 1.8M oz gold reserves
  • $932,535 in community investments
  • $66.6M spend on local suppliers, with $126/4M spend on national suppliers
  • $25.58M spend on Indigenous suppliers

* All data is from 2021 unless otherwise stated. Our 2021 operations at Musselwhite were significantly impacted by COVID and completion of conveyance infrastructure.


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One of the ways that Musselwhite demonstrates respect for its Indigenous partners is through the opening and closing water ceremonies each spring and fall that give thanks to and show respect for the land and water surrounding the site. The ceremony consists of prayers and hymns, with youth opening and closing the decant valve.


For this article and more visit the digital copy of: The Northern Ontario Mining Report

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