Canadian Mining Sector Partnerships with Aboriginals Create Enormous Benefits – by Marilyn Scales

Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.

A new wave of co-operation between Aboriginal peoples and the mineral industry can be felt across Canada. It is evidenced by the growing number of impact and benefit agreements that are created every month. Gone are most of the adversarial relationships between mining and Aboriginals in favour of participation and sharing.

Time was, 35 years ago when I first took an interest in the Canadian mining scene, that the words “land claim” could strike fear into the heart of any mine builder. As long as a specific claim was not settled, the land under discussion was essentially off-limits for exploration and development.

Today’s impact and benefits agreements provide cultural, educational, training and employment opportunities for the descendents of Canada’s original inhabitants. Explorers and developers spend millions to provide these opportunities. The native population has taken up the challenge by becoming trusted employees and owners of their own businesses that serve the mineral industry. And when a mine reaches the end of its productive life, members of the local communities have skills and business acumen that can be transferred to other industries.

I acknowledge that there are some outstanding land claims today, but I am heartened that I hear far more news about inclusive agreements than exclusive arguments.

Here are a few announcements made this month that illustrate the inclusive nature of today’s mineral developments.

Brett Resources of Vancouver and eight First Nations of Treaty No.3 have signed an agreement in principle covering Brett’s Hammond Reef gold project near Atikokan, ON.

The Tahltan Nation Development Corp. and Cabo Drilling of North Vancouver have signed a venture that will create Tahltan Drilling Services. The Tahltan will provide general labour, drill operators, drill helpers and other personnel to perform mineral exploration drilling, development drilling and mine drilling in British Columbia. Cabo will provide the venture with drilling services management and supervision, as well as drills, consumables, parts, tools, supplies and other materials and equipment.

The chiefs of six Treaty No.3 First Nations have signed an exploration agreement with Canadian Arrow Mines. Canadian Arrow will offer employment and business contracts to the First Nations in return for their support of exploration on their traditional territory.

Detour Gold of Toronto has signed a letter of intent with the Wahgoshig First Nation to guide their relationship through the development of the Detour Lake gold project in northern Ontario. The Wahgoshig will be involved in environmental assessment and permitting for the project as well as areas covered by conventional impact and benefits agreements.

Toronto-based MacDonald Mines has signed an exploration agreement with the Webequie First Nation covering the company’s 2010 program in the James Bay Lowlands. The hunt is on for chromite on the Big Mac and Hornby properties.

Niocan of Montreal has updated its 10-year-old socio-economic impacts study for the proposed Oka ferroniobium mine 40 km northwest of Montreal. The study notes that the mine will create 160 jobs, 20% of which will be reserved for the Mohawks of Kanasetake. Niocan has agreed to take on the management of the underground water table as well as creating a vigilance committee to oversee environmental monitoring and remediation.

An exploration agreement has been signed by Long Lake No.58 First Nation and Premier Gold Mines to foster their working relationship with respect to the Hardrock gold project near Beardmore, ON.

Vancouver’s Terrane Metals enjoys the strong support of the McLeod Lake Indian Band for development of its Mt. Milligan copper-gold development 155 km northwest of Prince George, BC. The project is located in the band’s traditional lands.

These and many other impact and benefit agreements are the norm now, not the exception. It is unthinkable to plan exploration and mining without the consultation, input and participation of Aboriginal peoples. That is as it should be.

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