Mattagami chief says First Nations will get left behind if they don’t support mining – by Len Gillis (Timmins Times – October 27, 2011)

“Sometimes we have to think like a white man” said Walter Naveau at mining summit

More than two hundred First Nations delegates joined mining executives, community leaders and provincial representatives in Timmins this week to discuss the future of mining development in Northern Ontario and how more and more First Nations need to be involved in that development.

Despite all the concern about ensuring that First Nations get a fair share of economic development, the meeting in Timmins was told that more Aboriginal communities and businesses need to step up and take advantage of the boom in Northern Ontario.

And although some speakers expressed concern about the increasing level of development, others said if the First Nations don’t take advantage of the economic opportunities, they will be left behind.

Brian Davey, a special initiative advisor with of Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund, was a host speaker at the Mining Ready Summit held at the Days Inn.

“The Mining Ready summit is to assist in preparing aboriginal communities to take advantage of some of the service-related businesses associated with mining but also to bring together partnerships comprised of all businesses, be it aboriginal or non aboriginal, so all groups can generate wealth together for the betterment of all of Northern Ontario,” said Davey.

He said the mining experts were on hand to outline the various stages of mining, from the first exploration work where claims are being staked to the final closure work, where the land is being reclaimed and returned back to a normal state.

Davey said there are opportunities in all those stages that First Nations can use to their advantage for economic development.

Indeed he said many companies are actively seeking partnerships with Aboriginal businesses and the opportunities are there for the taking.

Davey said part of the process at the summit is to allow businesses, aboriginal groups and others to put faces to the names and begin the process of building trust and understanding.

Davey said financial equity can be a problem for some First Nations in that there is not enough money to start up a viable business. He said that can be overcome with business development loans, followed up by partnerships to ensure there is appropriate management in place to make sure the business succeeds.

A similar sentiment was voiced by Chief Walter Naveau of the Mattagami First Nations. He said it was vital for him to be at the summit since, after all, Timmins falls within the traditional territory of his First Nation.

Naveau said at first that he and other Aboriginal leaders were leery about dealing with mining firms. At one time, he said, the First Nations were on the outside looking in, as resource developments took place.

“All of a sudden we began to look at our inherent treaty rights and we started to exercise those rights by talking to lawyers and consultants,” said Naveau.

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