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OMA forum expands First Nation-mining industry dialogue

by NationTalk on March 15, 2012484 Views

Ontario Mining Association
March 14, 2012

An OMA forum on mining sector and First Nation issues held last week has expanded the dialogue on the expectations and realities of both groups — The panel had three representatives from industry and three senior First Nations representatives. . . . .
The moderator was Sandra Gogal, an expert in Aboriginal and resource industry law with Miller Thomson, an OMA member. ”We want to facilitate open dialogue and a sharing of information amongst panelists and the audience,” she said. “There are many successes but we want the forum to be challenging and address issues where there may be differences on both sides of the debate.”On the topic of overlapping land claims by more than one Aboriginal group, Michael Fox, President of Fox High Impact Consulting, said “This is a relatively new phenomenon dealing with overlapping traditional protocols changed by a third party. You can only move as fast as the communities can move and an educational platform has to take place first.”

“Traditional boundaries are often fluid,” added Brian Davey, Advisor to the Nishnawbe-Aski Development Fund. “We believe very strongly that the issue of overlapping land claims is something that First Nations communities need to sort out themselves,” said Jonathan Fowler, Vice President Aboriginal Affairs and Sustainability for De Beers Canada.

“We have seen instances where First Nations come together as a united organization and they won’t finalize a deal until things are sorted out with neighbouring communities,” said Colin Webster, Director of Aboriginal, Government and Community Relations for Goldcorp. “We all want jobs, we all want people to work for us, we all want Aboriginal businesses to succeed and we all want environmental protection.”

Panelists offered different perspectives on revenue sharing. “There is a wide range of expectations from the Crown and there is a wide range of expectations because of different corporate financial situations,” said Derek Teevan, Vice President Aboriginal and government Affairs for Detour Gold.

“Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs) are all different, they are business arrangements,” said Shawn Batise, Executive Director of the Wabun Tribal Council in Timmins. “There has to be a return and there has to be an alignment of interests. The big part is educating the community and I don’t think that should necessarily all be on the proponent.”

“With IBAs, there is a difference between financial compensation and financial participation,” said Mr. Fox. “Revenue sharing is part of the accommodation but industry doesn’t get the credit it should for non-financial compensation such as building social infrastructure,” added Mr. Fowler.

“Consultation and accommodation are linked,” said Mr. Batise. “We need to continue the relationship after the IBA is signed.” “IBAs have evolved,” said Mr. Teevan. “IBAs are a commitment to treat First Nations as a level of government and the start of ongoing dialogue and responsibility, which carry a high cost.”

The dialogue among three industry representatives from De Beers Canada, Goldcorp and Detour Gold and three Aboriginal representatives – Mr. Batise, Mr. Davey and Mr. Fox – covered a broad range of topics and viewpoints. The OMA thanks all participants and the audience for promoting dialogue. Agreement cannot be reached without honest and open communication. As all panelists said in their own words and their own ways, “we know our interests must be aligned.”

Unfortunately, a two-hour session and a short e-news article cannot accurately reflect the cumulative expertise, experience and commitment of all six panelists, or offer any of the issues the time they fully deserve. However, they do provide a flavor of the ongoing debate. In Ontario since 1999, there have been more than 90 mineral development benefit agreements signed between First Nations and mining companies. Let’s hope this session can do a small bit to keep that number growing.

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