Stornoway opens the Swallow Airport at the Renard mine

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Swallow-airport3It was a brisk cool morning when our plane landed at the Renard mine for the inauguration of the Clarence and Abel Swallow Airport on March 25. As we made our way into the building, Swallow family members gathered to look at photographs covering the history of this land and of the Swallow family.

With the room filled with four generations of Swallows, the ribbon-cutting ceremony began with the unveiling of a commissioned portrait of Clarence and Abel Swallow, the original tallymen of the area.

“This airport will be here a long time,” said Matt Manson, CEO of Stornoway Diamond Corporation. “Literally thousands of people will come through here and the first thing they see will be the Clarence and Abel Swallow Airport, the photos on the wall, and the words of Abel after the Mecheshoo Agreement was signed [in March 2012].”

With close to 70% of the mineworkers coming from Mistissini, the new airport will serve as the bridge to bring two worlds closer. Many of those working in the mine are members of the Swallow family who have taken a proactive role in the development of the site.

Stornoway is focused on transparency in its relations with stakeholders and local communities. But the company is also committed to a graceful restoration of the land to its original condition once the mine is exhausted.

Clarence and Abel Swallow.

Clarence and Abel Swallow.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there is a ditch surrounding the entire mine site,” vice-president of public affairs Ghislain Poirier said. “We’re the first mine in Canada that employs this technique in order to ensure all water in contact with the mine is recovered and treated.”

However, the impact is not only environmental, as Manson elaborated through a discussion he had with Grand Chief Mathew Coon Come. Manson started by saying how the mine will have low impact environmentally, but Coon Come interrupted him to say, “Everything you do has an impact on us. Providing jobs changes the dynamics in families, the creation of wealth in communities, and the disturbance of migratory patterns. Everything you do has an impact.”

Manson said he took those words to heart and incorporated them into the ethos of how Stornoway handles the way it conducts business.

With lots of laughs and the presenting of gifts, it was clear from the interaction between the family and Stornoway that their relationship was one of mutual benefit that met the needs of both parties. With Emerson Swallow as his translator, Abel spoke about the difficult times when all that he had to help take care of his family came from the land. Now he was happy to see many family members able to provide for themselves thanks to the work on the mine. “There were many moments when it seemed that times were tough, but you have to keep trying and do what you need to do, that’s how I look at it,” said Abel.

In the end, the land is still being used as a means to provide for the Swallow family. But Abel Swallow said it is time for Stornoway to help provide for them through the land. With an expected production life of at least 20 years, the Renard mine and Stornoway will help to provide for many more generations of Swallows.

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