A new partnership will jump-start mining contracts for First Nations in northern Ontario
The First Nations Mining Corporation (FNMC) is emerging as an example of a new kind of partnership to further aboriginal interests in mining development in Ontario. Centred in northern Ontario and formally launched in early 2014, FNMC is a joint venture between four First Nations and three corporate heavyweights in the Canadian mining industry. Lac Seul, Flying Post, Mattagami and Wahgoshig First Nations own 51 per cent of the registered corporation, with SNC-Lavalin, Cementation Canada and the Morris Group holding minority stakes.
“What we had envisioned for [FNCM] was finding a way that the communities can participate actively in mine construction, operation, and closure,” says Jason Batise, economic development and technical services advisor to the Wabun Tribunal Council, which represents the participating First Nations.
According to the Ontario Mining Association, about one out of every 10 people working in Ontario’s mining industry has an aboriginal background. What is changing is that aboriginal communities are moving beyond participation via impact and benefit agreements (IBAs); they are now organizing businesses and joint partnerships to spearhead mine development.
For the Wabun Tribal Council, mining is nothing new, says Batise. WTC is headquartered in Timmins, where gold mining has been going on for over a century. “From the First Nations’ point of view it was a way for us to develop our capacity instantly,” Batise says. “If we start from zero to develop on our own it might take us several decades to get to where the Lavalins or the Cementations have already gotten to.”
That is where a company like Cementation Canada comes in. As a mine construction heavyweight, Cementation provides both entry-level mine training and more specific skills training for First Nations employees. Eric Kohtakangas, Cementation’s vice-president of operations, says his company has adapted a training program that was originally borne of the skills shortage caused by the commodities boom of the early 2000s and is now used exclusively to train First Nations workers.
The program begins with a six-week basic mine training course – including three weeks of classroom training in their home community – to prepare new hires for working underground.
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