By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo
The Rainy River Community Pasture has found a new home.
The pasture has been relocated from its previous site, north of Highway 600 between Blackhawk and Dearlock, to a contiguous group of properties north of the village of Pinewood.
The relocation was prompted by a proposal from Rainy River Resources Ltd., a Canadian precious metals company developing the Rainy River Gold Project in the Blackhawk area.
In the spring of 2011, Rainy River Resources, which already owned the mineral rights underlying the old community pasture, approached the Rainy River Community Pasture Committee to indicate its interest in acquiring the surface rights to the pasture in order facilitate the development of the project.
The company emphasized that it was aware of the importance of the community pasture to local cattle ranchers and wanted to ensure that, if possible, the Rainy River District would continue to enjoy the benefits of having a community pasture.
The RRCP, for its part, was cognizant of its mandate to protect the interests of users of the pasture while also recognizing the importance of Rainy River Resources’ gold project to the region.
In July, 2011, the RRCP and its members held a meeting at which they unanimously recommended that a relocation of the pasture be pursued rather than a sale of the pasture and cessation of operations.
Rainy River Resources concurred, and the RRCP agreed that it would endeavour to identify a new site, with the company providing assurances that the current community pasture could be used until another one was acquired.
The community pasture is one of the 11 such community pastures in the province sold to the Association of Community Pastures (ACP) by the Ontario government in 2000.
Any sale or relocation of the community pasture remained subject to the approval of the ACP, the minister of agriculture and food, and the Ministry of Rural Affairs.
Local OMAF/MRA staff assisted the RRCP in contacting land owners, and identifying and assessing potential properties on which the community pasture could be relocated.
One of the main criteria was to try to obtain a large block of contiguous acreage rather than fragmented blocks. By the fall of 2011, a number of potential properties in the area were short-listed for consideration.
The RRCP and OMAF/MRA staff met with Rainy River Resources and presented the alternatives, along with the pros and cons of each property, and recommended their preferred property for relocation.
The company then entered into negotiations with the land owners, and in November, 2012, a land exchange agreement was reached whereby Rainy River Resources would purchase the replacement pasture lands in the Pinewood area for the RRCP in exchange for a transfer of the existing community pasture lands in Blackhawk.
The land swap agreement was approved by ACP, which threw its support behind the proposal and made a strong recommendation to the minister that the relocation be approved.
The OMAF/MRA did so in January and the land exchange was completed in early March, with all deal costs being covered by Rainy River Resources.
The new community pasture lands are significantly larger than the former pasture, with an area of 1,531 acres compared to 873 acres. The new pasture also is superior from an environmental viewpoint in that it is fenced to keep livestock out of all waterways.
Rainy River Resources generously agreed to provide additional funding to the RRCP for additional improvements to the new pasture, including upgrading perimeter fencing, installing additional cross-fencing, and drilling a second well.
That work has been completed—and cattle went on the new pasture in early June, which can accommodate more than twice the number of cattle compared to the old one.
“We, as a company, are very pleased with the outcome of this land exchange,” said Rainy River Resources president and CEO Ray Threlkeld.
“Keeping the community pasture in operation was a priority, and so we welcomed the opportunity to assist in relocating the pasture to a much larger and more environmentally-friendly facility, which is in keeping with our commitment to sound environmental practices and sustainability initiatives,” he noted.
“This relocation will also help us move forward with the Rainy River Gold Project,” Threlkeld added.
“We hope to start construction in late 2014 and are committed to employing as many qualified local people as possible.”
Threlkeld said the company is estimating it will need around 400 people during the construction phase and 600 people during full-time operations.
“We wish to thank everyone involved, include the RRCP and its members, the local landowners, the ACP and the minister, and his local OMAF/MRA staff for making this possible,” he remarked.
The RRCP would like to thank Rainy River Resources for its patience and for providing the new pasture. It also would like to thank Amos Brielmann for managing the upgrades and improvements to the new pasture.
The RRCP will be holding an open house at the new community pasture location next Thursday (July 25).
Lunch will be provided at 1 p.m., with a pasture tour to follow.
Dates to remember
•July 25–Soil and crop tour, 9:30 a.m., Larry Lamb farm;
•July 25–Community pasture open house, 1 p.m., Morley-Dilke Road; and
•July 25–Emo Agricultural Research Station open house, 7 p.m.