Northern Ontario Aboriginal youth camps help build a new generation of miners

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.

Congratulations to the dozens of new graduates from three Mining Matters Aboriginal Youth Camps held recently.  With the support of Ontario Mining Association member Noront Resources, these special week long educational camps for Aboriginal youth were held in Webequie, Marten Falls and Thunder Bay.

Close to 100 people graduated from these three programs in Northwestern Ontario.  While most of the participants were children of elementary and high school age, there were a number of adults who took part in the course at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, which did a first-rate job managing and hosting the educational program.

Each camp was five days in length and it offered students the opportunity to gain knowledge about Earth science and the mineral industry through hands-on learning and activities.  The camp involved classroom and field lessons.  Topics covered included basic geology and the structure of the earth, GPS and compass work, prospecting, line cutting, geochemistry, biodiversity, health and safety, mining operations and career options within the sector.

“This program teaches our youth about Earth science and mineral exploration, mining and the environment,” said Chief Cornelius Wabasse of the Webequie First Nation.  “The content, so relevant to the mineral exploration and mine sites close to our communities, inspires and challenges our youth.  Positive reactions from last year, lead me to believe that the program has lasting impact on our youth, opening their eyes to their own potential as well the job possibilities awaiting them.” 

“It is critical that local youth understand the importance of mining, education and staying in school to ensure Aboriginal communities are fully equipped to fully participate and benefit from future career and business opportunities,” said Leanne Hall, Vice President of Human Resources at Noront.  “We are thrilled to be expanding the program to the Thunder Bay region and having more Aboriginal youth participate in the Mining Matters program.”

Noront has been a champion of these educational outreach programs from two years.  “Industry support is vital for this important program,” said Barbara Green Parker, Mining Matters Aboriginal Education Specialist. “Noront Resources believes in giving Aboriginal youth valuable experience and insight to their potential and we greatly appreciate their vision.”

PDAC Mining Matters is a charitable organization established in 1997, which works to educate students about Canada’s geology and mineral resource endowment and promote awareness of the importance of rocks, metals, minerals and mining.  The organization gives young people the chance to learn hands-on about the minerals industry in a fun and education way.  This is the tenth year Mining Matters has offered its Aboriginal Youth Outreach Program.  Supporters of the program this year include OMA members Noront, North American Palladium, Cementation and Knight Piesold.

Mining is the largest private sector employer of Aboriginals in Canada. Aboriginals represent 7.5% of the mining workforce. Between 1996 and 2006, there was a 43% increase in the number of Aboriginals employed in the mineral sector rising from 2,600 to more than 4,500. In the five years since 2006, this number has increased significantly as more mining exploration and development takes place in areas close to Aboriginal communities. Also, according to Natural Resources Canada’s “Mining Sector Performance Report,” females accounted for 14% of Aboriginal employees, up from 11.5% in 2001.

Planning is already underway for Mining Matters Aboriginal Youth Outreach Program for next year with an eye on gaining more graduates.

September 13, 2011
Several significant new mineral discoveries have been found in Ontario’s Far North over the past decade in an area referred to as the Ring of Fire.

Discoveries to date include deposits of copper and zinc, nickel and copper and platinum, chromium and iron and gold.

The Ministry of Northern Development Mines and Forestry has established a Ring of Fire Secretariat headed by the Ring of Fire Co-ordinator.