Mining looks to First Nations for future manpower – by Len Gillis (Timmins Daily Press – January 29, 2015)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – Back in the day, spring was the time of year when many Northern prospectors would take some time off and get out of the bush before the snow melted and the creeks and rivers were opened up. Soon enough, they would be heading back in, with fresh supplies, a new tent, a canoe and a packsack full of hope for a new season.

And all across Northern Ontario, the brief spring break found hundreds of prospectors and mining executives heading to Toronto to take part in the annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) which was formed 83 years ago.

The convention continues to be Canada’s largest mining and mining exploration event that brings together people from every level of the industry to discuss common concerns. One of those concerns is how to deal with growing shortage of trained workers, especially in more remote areas of the country — usually where the mines are developed.

Convention organizers say the Toronto event will be attracting hundreds of First Nations representatives who will be networking with mining companies, not only to explore business partnerships, but also to discuss job opportunities. More than 500 Aboriginal representatives took part in last year’s event and the association expects the same level of interest this year.

PDAC president Rod Thomas said the association has long encouraged Canadian mining companies to engage with First Nations as early as possible.

“Good community engagement practices can help increase project success and can lay the groundwork for the participation of Aboriginal people in mineral industry-related opportunities,” Thomas said in an email interview with The Daily Press.

Thomas also said this leads to trust, better understanding and good relationships.

“As an industry, we’ve seen that active engagement by companies from the earliest stages of exploration can lead to greater understanding of local concerns and improved community participation in the process. Early engagement also helps build strong relationships and trust between companies and communities.”

Thomas added that the association is in favour of having clear rules on the duty to consult when mining companies and prospectors work on First Nations’ territories.

“Our association encourages each jurisdiction to adopt clear and consistent policies, processes and guidelines on the duty to consult,” said Thomas. “Clarity around consultation processes will make jurisdictions more attractive to exploration and mining companies, increase investor confidence and lay the groundwork for companies to establish positive relationships with Aboriginal communities.”

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