01/20/2015 04:17 EST | Updated 03/22/2015 05:59 EDT

OPG, Moose Cree First Nation mark milestone at new hydro project

A major hydro project hailed as a new way to do business with First Nations is now at full production.

The Lower Mattagami project is the largest hydro build in the north in more than 50 years — and it's a partnership with the Moose Cree First Nation.

The $2.6 billion project is a redevelopment of a series of old generating stations about 70 kilometres north of Kapuskasing.

As part of the deal, Moose Cree First Nation owns a 25 per cent equity stake, and will receive funds from the power generated.

Moose Cree businesses also received more than $300 million worth of contracts during construction.

Moose Cree Chief Norm Hardisty Jr. said the project shows how First Nations and governments can work together.

“This is what a treaty is all about. Being able to work together. Being able to share the lands and resources that are in our territory,” he said.

At its peak, the Lower Mattagami project employed about 1,800 people from around northern Ontario.

The majority of the jobs were in construction, and are now wrapping up.

But Ontario Power Generation spokesperson Neal Kelley said a number of people completed trade certificates during their time on the project.

“These young people will be able to take the skills that they learned to other infrastructure projects really anywhere in the province or the country or the world,” he said.

Kelley said there could be other potential partnerships on northern hydro projects in the future, but none are on the books yet.

Hardisty Jr. said the hydro project is a big part of the economic future of his community.

“This is something that is really going to change our economic world if you may,” he said.

“It will have helped, assisted our elders today, our present day in terms of the workforce that was there in the last number of years. But more importantly, it will benefit our children yet unborn.”

The Lower Mattagami project is expected to generate power for about 100 years.