NEWS RELEASE: Lack of government funding may force successful First Nations mining employment program to shut down

Vancouver, B.C. – (November 29, 2012) – Concern is rising in the British Columbia mining community that a successful program to train First Nations people for well paying mining jobs will be forced to shut down without the continuance of  Federal funding. If there is no commitment for funding by either the Federal or BC governments by December 1st, the BC Aboriginal Mine Training Association (BC AMTA) will begin the formal shutdown process. 

BC AMTA has candidates representing more than 120 Indian bands and currently has 60 employers in its network. To date, 222 Aboriginal people are working at well-paying mining jobs after going through the BC AMTA program. There are approximately 80 Aboriginal people including members of the Kamloops and Skeetschestn First Nations communities employed at the New Afton underground gold and copper mine under development 10 kilometers southwest of Kamloops. The mining operation is scheduled to begin production in July, 2012.

Two years ago, New Afton joined forces with the Association of Mineral Exploration BC and the Mining Association of BC and other companies to launch BC AMTA. 

They secured Federal Government funding through Human Resources Skills Development Canada and established the training and employment program that would help answer the skills gap within the communities. While other mining industry funders dropped out, New Afton continued to support BC AMTA.

The successful selection and training of Aboriginal mine workers by BC AMTA along with a participation agreement between New Afton and the Kamloops and Skeetschestn  First Nations communities is a model of cooperation and success.

In the past two and a half years, New Afton has gone from 50 to 360 employees. Twenty three per cent of the employees are Aboriginal. Selection and training has been through the BC AMTA program which is now in jeopardy. 

“We found that most First Nations candidates were not job ready and needed skills upgrading to become qualified for jobs at the mine,” says New Afton Aboriginal Coordinator Martha Manuel.  “Some of the upgrading needs were numeracy, reading comprehension, document use and even preparing an appropriate resume, handling a job interview and completing intake assessments.” She says another area where there was no job experience was heavy equipment operation, particularly on modern, computerized machines.

BC AMTA pre-screens and assesses First Nations candidates and channels them into programs that will upgrade essential workplace skills, provides orientation to mine health and safety and ensures local First Nations people get the training to become the best candidates for the job. Successful candidates get on-the-job training and mentoring to ensure success in adapting to the workplace environment. 

With Premier Christy Clark’s promise of eight new mines over five years in B.C., over 800 aboriginals from around the province have registered for BC AMTA services.

BC AMTA programs are working. For example, the organization initiated an industry-certified heavy equipment operators program at the New Afton mine site. The focus on experiential learning and the routine of coming to the mine site every day has students well engaged in the work environment. Even the contractors on site have offered employment to the new operators.

“The program has been enormously successful in selecting and training Aboriginal workers from our local communities for skilled mining jobs,” says New Afton Human Resources Manager Ann Wallin. “We still need more workers as we move toward production estimating a need for more than 400 full-time employees. The Aboriginal Mine Training Association program is an essential service for us.”

Teams of underground miners who trained together with BC AMTA and New Afton staff are currently working at the mine site. As well, one First Nations husband and wife team is managing the laundry service for the mine and another husband and wife team operates the on-site concession.

For more information:                                                                         

Laurie Sterritt: Director, BC AMTA


Ann Wallin, Human Resources Manager, New Afton 

250 377-2714                                                                                                                                                      
Martha Manuel, First Nations Coordinator, New Afton

250 377-2718                                                                                                                                                                                            
Chief Shane Gottfriedson, Kamloops Indian Band    

250 828-9700