Thursday 24th September 2020

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Aboriginal engagement

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Other problems persist. Among them are territorial disputes between different bands. Roca Mines TSXV:ROK president/CEO Scott Broughton recalled working with a previous company when he witnessed each of three nations “sort of pounding their fists on the table and telling us they had the best rights to that area.… These were very difficult things for any company but I’d say especially for a small junior exploration company.”

Kaminak faced one nation that “was basically asserting they had traditional rights over our project area,” Thomas related. “The Crown has actually voiced a view that they do not.” After conducting its own ethno-historical study, the company signed an agreement “respecting the fact that they’ve been involved in traditional land use activities in that area.”

If you look back 25 years ago and look where we are today, I think you’d probably describe it as a revolution.—Scott Broughton,
president/CEO of Roca Mines

In an earlier talk, B.C.’s chief treaty commissioner Sophie Pierre, a former elected chief of the St. Mary’s Indian Band, said she’s recommended federal, provincial and first nation governments adopt a “structured process” to resolve these types of disputes.

What happens when one company drops a project and another takes over? Noting that some B.C. properties have had companies coming and going for 50 years, Broughton called for a way to inform new title holders of past relationships.

Sometimes, apparently, there are no relationships to speak of. Although details were scarce, a few audience members complained about racism, even “horrendous racism.”

Broughton replied that he’s seen it in mines all over the world, a problem he attributed partly to “miner machismo.” He added, “I’ve worked at Kirkland Lake on a shaft where the French-speaking northern Ontario guys would beat up the Finlanders.”

New Gold tries to avoid disputes through mentors, “both aboriginal and non-aboriginal,” Gallagher said.

But how far must accommodation go? An audience member implied that one project’s “rules and regulations about dope testing” were unfair. He stated, “We can’t fill our quota of workers because of the stringent rules that are in place for our people.”

Another audience member said “I like to go hunting” even though “it’s cheaper to buy beef.” He called on companies to “incorporate time off work to capture that part of traditional values that we carry.”

Some CEOs agreed that companies should grant time off for cultural activities and customs, such as an entire community mourning the death of an elder.

But what if, after all the cultural allowances, all the offers of job and contracting set-asides, all the offers of training, mentoring and revenue-sharing, the answer is no? A student asked how panel members would react if a project failed to win native approval.

Seemingly taken aback, the bosses improvised on the theme of avoiding rejection through early engagement. “You can’t get to a ‘no’ if you’ve done your homework,” Sabina Gold and Silver TSX:SBB president/CEO Rob Pease insisted.

But the four CEOs had little to say about how cash-starved juniors might find the time, money and experience to accommodate the industry’s cultural transformation. Nor did the panel include anyone from HD Mining International, unique for its Teflon-coated exemption from aboriginal engagement and its, um, interesting approach to human resources.

Four days of Gathering Place events ended with an account of the evolution from aboriginal supply and services to resource ownership and operation. That came through in CEO Darrell Beaulieu’s presentation on Denendeh Exploration and Mining Company (DEMCo), owned by all Northwest Territories first nations through Denendeh Investments Inc. DEMCo targets NWT past-producers for their infrastructure and further potential.

In December DEMCo released results from its 2014 Camsell River program southeast of Great Bear Lake, which underwent sampling as well as re-assaying of historic core. The company also holds three diamond prospects in the Lac de Gras region and an historic gold deposit.

Acknowledging the industry’s “hard economic, environmental and social trade-offs,” Beaulieu said he’s “been on both sides of the table.”

Read more about AME BC’s Roundup 2015.

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