Award winners represent the best of Indigenous business in the North: PEP Conference celebrated recipients on Jan. 21.

AuthorKelly, Lindsay

Before partnering up with Jacob & Samuel (J&S) Drilling, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek had very little knowledge of the diamond drilling business, noted Brendan Huston, the First Nation's CEO.

The community, a Huron-Robinson Treaty signatory located about 19 kilometres west of Sudbury, had had some exposure to the mining industry through its partnerships with KGHM, Glencore, Vale, and MacDonald Mines. But diamond drilling was something new.

Enter J&S Drilling. Based just outside of Sudbury, the Indigenous-owned firm, run by Stephane Cormier and Shannon Bennett, provides exploration drilling and diamond drilling services throughout Canada and North America.

In January 2019, Atikameksheng and J&S signed a joint venture agreement, Bagone'an JS Drilling Inc., giving the community a 51 per cent stake in the partnership, and J&S the remaining minority portion. Shortly afterward, Bagone'an JS Drilling secured a long-term drilling contract from KGHM.

Over the last several months, the agreement has meant growing opportunities for community members to gain knowledge and employment in the industry.

"We really did benefit from the fact that, through this partnership, we were able to learn a lot about the drilling industry, and being able to meaningfully participate in this industry as well," Huston said.

Huston's comments came during an acceptance speech at the gala dinner of the 2020 Procurement Employment Partnerships (PEP) Conference at Ristorante Verdicchio in Sudbury.

Atikameksheng and J&S jointly accepted the Business Partnership of the Year award, which recognizes a partnership that has contributed to the well-being of the area, developed training and employment opportunities for Indigenous people and businesses, and shown commitment to the community in which they operate.

Huston said receiving the award was a "milestone" in Atikameksheng's relationship with J&S, and "we look forward to continue this forward, helping to build capacity in the community and contribute to meaningful economic development as well."

Shannon Bennett, chief financial officer at J&S, said the agreement marked a long-term partnership for the two parties.

"I expect to be around and working in the area for quite a bit in the drilling industry with these guys, so this is a good partnership," she said.

The award was one of three presented during the gala dinner, which was hosted by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and catered by Chef Rich Francis, a Haudenosaunee/Tetlit...

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