OMA Members Build Bridges with First Nations
Ontario Mining Association member companies have a strong track record for building bridges and working in collaborative partnerships with Aboriginal communities in the province. In a presentation last evening, OMA Chairman and Senior Vice President for De Beers Canada Jeremy Wyeth stressed that “for many parts of Northern Ontario and particularly among First Nations, mining plays a key role in regional development and the provision of education and training and for providing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.””Mine sites across the province have worked hard to build strong relationships with the communities where they operate,” said OMA President Chris Hodgson. “Sharing of the social and economic benefits that accompany responsible mineral development is a principle all our members support.”
Several examples of mutual benefit and cooperation among OMA members and Aboriginal communities can be found. The Musselwhite gold mine, in Northwestern Ontario, which opened in 1997, established an innovative agreement with a number of First Nations that provides for education, training, employment and business related opportunities in local communities. Xstrata Nickel and the Wanapitei First Nation reached a mutually benefit agreement concerning the development of the Nickel Rim project in the Sudbury area.
Recently, the Attawapiskat First Nation ratified with a vote of acceptance in excess of 85% the Impact Benefit Agreement with De Beers Canada concerning the development of the Victor project, Ontario´s first diamond mine. De Beers Canada has reached similar agreements with other First Nations communities in the James Bay region. The OMA has worked to help First Nations better understand the mineral industry. With financial assistance from Ontario, through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, and from Ottawa, through FedNor, the OMA produced Mining New Opportunities. This 14-minute video, which is available in Cree, Oji-Cree, Ojibway, French and English, features Aboriginal people involved in and with the mining industry telling their own stories.
Across Canada, there are numerous examples of similar successful collaborative agreements. Mining is the largest private sector employer of Aboriginals in Canada. Aboriginals comprise 5.3% of the mining workforce, which is about twice the national average. Also, Aboriginal employment in the sector has increased by 21.1% since 1996. “With these success relationships as a foundation, we remain optimistic that mutually beneficial solutions can be found to resolve any future issues,” said Mr. Wyeth.