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Historic exploration agreement a first

December 1, 2009
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Exploration with 0 Comments

Noront Resources, one of the best positioned exploration companies in the Ring of Fire, a highly prospective greenstone belt in Ontario’s James Bay Lowlands, is going beyond the call of duty to develop good relationships with Marten Falls and Webequie, the two First Nation communities closest to its nickel, PGM and chromium discoveries.

The junior mining company has signed a historic exploration agreement with the Marten Falls First Nation to compensate it for drilling it has completed on the community’s traditional lands. The cash payment, based on “X dollars per drillhole and so much per metre” probably sets a precedent for the area, said Paul Semple, Noront Resources’ chief operating officer.

“I’m not sure that our competitors are happy with us, but in all honesty, I think it was the right thing to do.” The payout will help to build capacity in Marten Falls, develop a good working relationship and add value for the company’s shareholders, he added.

Noront is working with Marten Falls Logistics, a joint venture established in February by the First Nation and Wilderness North for the supply of fuel and air service. An airstrip planned for the Ring of Fire will be built and owned by Marten Falls and serve Noront, as well as other junior mining companies operating in the region. The airstrip will be in operation before the end of the year.

“Now, we’re flying everything into Nakina or Webequie by float plane and we chopper in from there,” said Semple. “This will allow us to go directly to the site.”

Noront is also working toward an exploration agreement with Webequie First Nation, and does business with Cyr Drilling, a joint venture diamond drilling company in which Webequie has a 20 per cent stake.

Advisory council

The company has set up a First Nations Advisory Council consisting of Jerry Asp, one of Western Canada’s most prominent Aboriginal leaders, Leanne Hall, founder and president of Woodland HR of Alberta, Chief Glen Nolan, second vice-president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, and Roy Whitney, former chief of Tsuu T’ina First Nation in Alberta.

“The reason for the advisory council is to look at the work we have in front of us, to lay out the appropriate training programs and to decide how to engage the right policies at the right time,” said Semple.

The negotiation of memoranda of understanding will take place following the completion of a feasibility study in 2010 when the company has a better idea of timelines and employment opportunities.

“We’re very sensitive about not wanting to overpromise and underdeliver,” said Semple. “That’s the advice we’re getting from our advisory council.”

Public forums

Noront Resources has met with community leaders, and has held public forums in both Webequie and Marten Falls. Additional presentations will be made to inform community members about the mining industry and the jobs that will be available.

“As an industry, we haven’t done a good job at that,” said Semple. “If our own plans aren’t firm, at least we can explain what the mining industry generally does.”

Semple advises mining companies to be “open and honest” with First Nation communities. “If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. Or, if you can’t, explain why. It’s no different than how you would treat any other business partner.”

One or more mines in the Ring of Fire will have a major impact on the standard of living in the two communities, he said. “We still haven’t set our employment targets. Other mines are aiming for 20 per cent First Nation employment, but we think that’s too low. We’re going to set our targets much higher. If we do that, the standard of living in these communities will change considerably.”

Best practices

  • Be open and honest
  • Avoid overpromising and underdelivering
  • If you say you’re going to do something, do it
  • If you can’t, explain why
  • Meet with the community
  • Educate community members about the mining industry


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