Aboriginal Communities and the Mining Sector are Essential Partners for Poverty Alleviation and Industry Success

The Mining Industry Resources Council (MiHR) contributes to the strength, competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian metals and minerals industry by collaborating with industry, organized labour, educational institutions, the Aboriginal community, and other groups to develop and implement solutions to the industry’s national human resource challenges. Visit www.mihr.ca for more information.

The following news release was recently distributed by the MiHR:

Aboriginal communities to play critical role as Canada’s minerals and metals industry faces daunting shortfall in trained workers

Tens of thousands of skilled positions must be filled in next decade to keep mining industry robust

OTTAWA (April 27, 2009) – One of Canada’s most productive industrial sectors faces a serious skills shortage in the next decade according the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR), which today launched an awareness campaign to educate Canada’s Aboriginal communities and the mining industry how to work together to find a mutually beneficial solution.

A key player in the global mining industry, Canada is one of the world’s largest exporters of minerals, metals and diamonds. Aboriginal Peoples represent a significant, largely untapped resource for addressing the expected labour shortfall next decade, when tens of thousands of workers from the baby boom cohort are set to retire.  The Aboriginal population in Canada is growing six times faster than Canada’s non Aboriginal population. To address this, MiHR, an independent, industry-driven organization, has developed several tools including a website (www.aboriginalmining.ca) and two extensive informational guides for Aboriginal communities and industry employers.

“The recent economic downturn has merely lowered projections of the number of skilled workers the mining industry will need to replace,” says Ryan Montpellier, executive director, MiHR. “But we’re asking employers to keep moving at full steam on inclusion initiatives, because the shortage still stands in the tens of thousands and we collectively need to start working on a solution now.”

On the demand side, in May of 2009, MiHR and the Aboriginal Human Resource Council (AHRC) will launch Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion – a guide for industry, developed to educate and equip mining companies with the knowledge necessary to recruit, retain and advance more Aboriginal workers in the sector.

“Adapting a specialized version of our Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion program and partnering with MiHR to build a product that is specific for the mining industry makes good sense,” said Kelly Lendsay, President and CEO, Aboriginal Human Resource Council.   “Mining is one of the largest employers of Aboriginal people in Canada and well positioned to be the industry leader that will help advance inclusion in Canada.” 

Canada’s Aboriginal communities are part of a multi-pronged effort by MiHR to address the shortage. Proximity is a critical factor as some 1200 Aboriginal communities are located within 200 kilometers of 220 principal producing mines and more than 3000 active exploration sites, according to a 2008 report by Natural Resources Canada. Additionally, half of all Aboriginal people in Canada are under 25 years of age and feature a growth rate more than six times that of the general population, making them one of the fastest growing groups in the country.

A 2007 study suggests the mining industry could lose up to 40 per cent of the existing workforce in the next ten years due to retirement, taking with them an average of 21 years of mining sector experience each. The largest percentage of workers planning to retire within the next 10 years is in the skilled trades group. 

Recruitment of new workers to the industry and skills development of the existing workforce is fundamental to meet future human resource demands. MiHR remains focused on developing and executing hiring programs to attract a non-traditional workforce, including Canadian youth, women, visible minorities and Aboriginal people to participate in this high-paying sector.

“Attracting Aboriginal people to the mining sector not only makes geographical sense, but it also makes economic sense,” says Gordon Peeling, president and CEO, The Mining Association of Canada. “Today mining jobs offer any Canadian a chance at a rewarding and well paying profession. These jobs can help sustain northern communities, and by MiHR helping the mining industry address the labour shortfall, they are helping the industry stay ahead of the curve through Aboriginal inclusion.” 

Companies such as Vale Inco, Cameco, De Beers and Suncor have shown it is possible to achieve high degrees of Aboriginal recruitment, retention and advancement. MiHR collaborated with industry, organized labour, educational institutions, Aboriginal community leaders, and other groups to develop the resources and guides for both industry and Aboriginal communities.

“The Guide for Aboriginal Communities, provides a wide range of information that will enable career counselors and other HR professionals to educate young people and prepare Aboriginal communities to more fully participate and benefit when career opportunities arise over the next decade,”  says Melanie Sturk, MiHR’s Director, Attraction, Retention, and Transition.“It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

About the Mining Industry Human Resources Guide for Aboriginal Communities: 

The Mining Industry Human Resources Guide for Aboriginal Communities will equip community leaders with valuable tools that will enable thousands of young Aboriginal men and women to find rewarding careers in Canada’s mining industry, while addressing the need to replace highly skilled labour.

-The guide is available online: www.aboriginalmining.ca
-Contains a comprehensive list of occupations at all phases of the mining cycle
-Showcases education and training programs, most of which were developed by Aboriginal peoples and taught by Aboriginal instructors 

Why would someone want this resource?

-Enables leaders and employment and HR professionals to prepare the community to take advantage of local employment opportunities
-Learn about opportunities in the sector 

About Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion in Mining

Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion in Mining is a module series designed to nurture and grow the competencies that help businesses become companies-of-choice for Aboriginal talent. Launched in 2008, Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion was developed based on three -years of research the Aboriginal Human Resource Council conducted with its corporate inclusion partners. Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion in Mining expanded research efforts to include more than 20 additional companies, labour organizations and industry associations in the mining sector.

-The series takes employers through the history of Aboriginal culture, revealing the centuries of legislated exclusion that threatened the existence of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit cultures
-The materials explore the value of diversity and encourage employers to discover and develop their specific business case for the recruitment, retention and advancement of an Aboriginal workforce
The Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion module series and training program (available through www.aboriginalhr.ca) makes a strong business case for Aboriginal inclusion and helps employers move up the Inclusion Continuum:

-Aboriginal demographics (favorable population rates, proximity to mining projects)
-Skills shortage requires action now
-Companies benefit from diversity
-Corporate Social Responsibility – being inclusive is the right thing to do
-Many mining companies already champions of inclusion/employers of choice for Aboriginal peoples, and industry has already developed best practices
About the Mining Industry Resources Council (MiHR):

As Canada’s mining industry human resource sector council, MiHR contributes to the strength, competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian metals and minerals industry by collaborating with industry, organized labour, educational institutions, the Aboriginal community, and other groups to develop and implement solutions to the industry’s national human resource challenges. Visit www.mihr.ca for more information.

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program.

The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

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For more information about the Guides and for media interviews contact:

Matt Kanas

MAVERICK Public Relations for MiHR

416-640-5525 Ext. 237