Points Athabasca Contracting LP

Roots That Run Deep in the North
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

Points Athabasca Contracting LP (Points Athabasca) is deeply rooted in its community and heritage. The Saskatchewan-based industrial contractor, which specializes in mining operations, proudly originates from the untouched wilderness of the Athabasca region inhabited by Canada’s First Nation tribes.

“Points Athabasca was created to allow the local aboriginal people to become active in their own backyard by taking advantage of the area’s valuable resource boom,” explains Brad Darbyshire, CEO of Points Athabasca. “Our goal has always been to create opportunity with a self-sufficient company that brings money back to the local economy and employs local people.”

Becoming Self-sufficient

Brad, a First Nation Cree himself, was the company’s first employee nearly 14 years ago. “We were founded in 1999 as an economic development opportunity for seven First Nation communities in the Athabasca Basin,” he recalls. “To enter the mining market we needed a strategic partner to bring capacity, management and capital assets. We turned to Graham Construction [Graham].”

Although now one of the area’s most well-established general contractors, Graham initially supported Points Athabasca as the company began to grow. “Up until recently, we were completely managed by Graham,” says Brad. “In 2013, our board of directors and owners decided we were ready for our own management team and executives and I took over as CEO.”

Brad reveals that Points Athabasca is now in a unique transitional period where the company is developing its own processes. “We’re modeling our structure after Graham, but we’ve also made significant changes, because we aren’t a large general contractor; we focus more on service and maintenance,” he explains. “Graham now operates as a shareholder, but if there’s a circumstance where we need additional resources it can step in.”

Creating Local Opportunity

Points Athabasca is now one of the few fully self-sufficient entities in western Canada. “There are other companies that do what we do, but it’s few and far between,” adds Brad. “Few actually make the jump from joint venture to sole ownership. We have the ability to operate in our best interest, for our people’s benefit.”

Brad says that is the reason he comes to work every day. “We employ, engage and develop the local workforce, which is often overlooked, putting money back into our pockets,” he stresses. “Why bring in immigrant labor when I’ve got a list 1,000 persons long with local people willing to work. We’re providing aboriginal engagement in a sustainable, positive way.”

Today, Point Athabasca employs some 470 individuals. “About 50 percent of our employee base includes aboriginal workers; we’d love for it to be higher and we’re working on increasing that,” explains Brad. “We’re creating local opportunity through good, hard work. Some companies shy away from the aboriginal workforce, because of cultural differences, language barriers and misunderstanding, but it’s all about how you manage it.”

Brad and the team are willing to overcome any obstacles presented. “We’re committed to investing in our people,” continues Brad. “We spend the time and money on development, technical and leadership training because we want to add value. We want our employees to be even more employable; even if it’s outside of our business.”

Capitalizing on Close-to-home Resources

Right in Point Athabasca’s backyard is the Cigar Lake Mine (Cigar Lake), which is the largest undeveloped high-grade uranium deposit in the world, situated in the Athabasca Basin. Discovered in 1981, Cigar Lake contains some of the highest grade (nearly 20 percent) uranium in the world.

“Cigar Lake is our primary focus,” reveals Brad. “We’re currently building, and have built 300-man modern facility camps to support the mine. We’re also assisting with warehousing, processing, building access roads, an air strip and performing civil, mechanical and electrical work on-site.”

Points Athabasca not only assists in the construction aspect, but also provides a labor pool to support Cigar Lake operations. “From laborers to temporary technical engineers, we’ve got the people to make things run smoothly,” adds Brad. “Over the years, we’ve hired out in excess of 200 workers for these operations.”

Brad admits that local employment opportunities are not only the company’s primary focus, but also the future of Points Athabasca. “Empowering our people is why we come to work every day; it’s what this business is all about,” he says.

Points Athabasca continues to stand for strong social responsibility and sustainable business. “We’re going to maintain and increase our local engagement to support a market that’s right in our own backyard,” explains Brad. For 14 years Points Athabasca Contracting LP has remained committed to the well-being of the First Nation communities and fostering opportunity for local people, and will continue to do so for years to come.

For more information about Points Athabasca Contracting LP, please visit: www.pointsathabasca.ca.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Associated Mining Construction Inc.
Athabasca Basin Development Ltd Partnership
FHQ Developments