Agreement Strengthens Ontario Mining and First Nations Links

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and the Assembly of First Nations strengthens the existing links between these two groups.  Through this MOU, the mining industry will boost its engagement with First Nations economies creating employment and business opportunities.  The MOU was signed by National Chief Phil Fontaine and Jim Gowans, President of Ontario Mining Association member De Beers Canada and Chair of the MAC.  This historic initiative got underway when MAC and the Assembly of First Nations signed a letter of intent in November 2007.

“In resource development, First Nations and the mining community are natural partners,” said National Chief Fontaine.  “Developing a new partnership between the AFN and MAC will complement and enhance the growing relationships between First Nations and Canada´s major mining companies.  The resource sector will come back stronger than ever in the very near future.  With a growing land base and growing populations, First Nations are poised to be key players in the years and decades to come,” he added.  “We want to work together towards greater certainty and sustainable mining developments that will contribute significantly to the economic, social and environmental well-being of First Nations.”

“Canada´s mining industry is the largest private sector employer of Aboriginal people,” said Mr. Gowans.  “Across Canada, mining companies and First Nations communities have agreements in place that include commitments on hiring, training, business development and environmental practices.  We believe this growing relationship will be strengthened through dialogue and partnership with the AFN.”

Numerous 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 a creative agreement with a number of First Nations that provides for education, training, employment and business opportunities in local communities.  Xstrata Nickel and the Wanapitie First nation reached a mutual benefit agreement concerning the development fo the Nickel Rim project in the Sudbury area. 

The Victor Mine of De Beers Canada, which is near Attawapiskat, has a working relationship with Firsts Nations communities in the vicinity.  Approximately, 140 people, or 40% of the Victor workforce, are Aboriginal.  Recently, Lake Shore Gold signed an agreement with the Flying Post and Mattagami First nations related to its Timmins West property.  The OMA has worked to help First Nations better understand the mineral industry.  It produced the 14-minute video Mining New Opportunities, which features Aboriginal people involved in the mining industry telling their own stories.  The video is available in Cree, Oji-Cree, Ojibway, French and English.

The mining industry is working hard to develop relationships with First Nations and both groups are building on many successes.  The MOU signed by the AFN and MAC promises to enhance the process.  

The AFN is an Ottawa-based national organization representing First Nations citizens.  The MAC is a national trade association representing companies engaged in mineral exploration, mining and mineral processing, which has close links with the OMA and other industry groups.