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(Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:32 p.m. Friday with a statement from OmniTRAX.)
A group of Manitoba First Nations — through a newly formed partnership with private Canadian company iChurchill Inc. — say they have entered into an acquisition agreement with OmniTRAX Inc. to acquire the Hudson Bay Railway Co. and Port of Churchill in Manitoba.The rail line, which operates between Gillam and Churchill, has been inoperable since portions of it were washed out by floods in May 2017. OmniTRAX has declined to make the repairs related to the flooding, claiming they were "not economically feasible" and that the Canadian government should cover the cost.The railroad and port are crucial to the existence of all First Nations in northern Manitoba, according to a press release issued Thursday by First Nations and iChurchill. "My community is directly impacted as this line goes directly through our community and territory," said War Lake First Nation Chief Betsy Kennedy.
First Nations and iChurchill officials said they hope to complete the acquisition by mid-June.
However, in a prepared statement issued Friday afternoon, OmniTRAX Canada President Merv Tweed said his company is "continuing discussions with a number of interested parties."
"OmniTRAX Canada has long recognized the vital role of the Hudson Bay Railway in connecting Canada's north and we continue to work hard to find a solution that will ensure the long-term operations of the rail line," Tweed said. "We can confirm that we have received a signed Letter of Intent from a private Canadian company that has First Nations support. In recent days, we have also received letters of interest from several other Canadian companies. As of this moment, no transaction has been completed."