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Tres-Or builds trust through communication first nation kimberlite youth

December 1, 2009
by Adelle Larmour
In: News with 0 Comments

Communication and consultation are key to establishing a trustworthy relationship, according to Laura Lee Duffett, president and CEO of Vancouver-based Tres-Or Resources Ltd.

The diamond exploration company followed this mantra right from the time it staked claims on the Timiskaming First Nation’s  traditional lands in the Timiskaming and Temagami areas in northeastern Ontario and in Quebec’s Notre Dame du Nord region.

“We acquired our first claims in the Notre Dame du Nord region in 2002,” said Laura Lee Duffett, president and CEO of the company. “I introduced myself to the band council and First Nation elders. We purchased the claims from a Timiskaming First Nation elder, and we proceeded to map stake in Quebec.”

Intuitively, Duffett had a grasp of what was required to establish an open and communicative relationship with the First Nation community.

By the fall of 2003, the two groups had structured and signed their first memorandum of understanding, which was renewed in September 2005 and again in the fall of 2007 for a five-year period.

“It’s a courtesy to inform people around you what you are doing, where you are going to be and how you can be part of that community,” she said.

Lapointe kimberlite

Since that time, Temiskaming First Nation staking crews helped Tres-Or stake its Lapointe kimberlite discovery, the largest known diamond-bearing pipe in Ontario, located in the Timiskaming region about 80 kilometres southeast of Timmins. The May 2005 discovery sparked the largest staking rush in that area in 30 years. The kimberlite covers an area of more than 21 hectares. A delineation drill program of 3,500 metres indicated six intrusive events, each of which has returned diamonds. Tests yielded 440 diamonds from less than four tonnes of kimberlite.

Other grassroots exploration include Tres-Or’s Temagami and Temagami North diamond projects, as well as the 19 claim units in Mann Township, approximately 47 kilometres northeast of Timmins, targeting platinum/palladium and nickel/copper targets.

Training and employing First Nation people has been an integral part of the company’s exploration programs. In Quebec, Tres-Or provided training classes on how to do map staking and acquire claims. In Ontario, a permanent exploration field office was set up in Haileybury, from which the company hires staff. Efforts are made to find work for well-trained individuals as well as for novices and  those who may require some upgrading.

“We have a relationship with the human resource development group on the reserve,” Duffett said. “When we need people, we go to human resources, get a list (of candidates) and do our interviews. We’ve had good success.”

Duffett is cognizant of the need to establish clear communication with the First Nation about the details of its exploration program, the environmental impact, as well as the potential economic benefits.

“It is the responsibility of the company to educate the people who are involved,” she emphasized. “If you’re hiding something, then you can’t be trustworthy. If the results are poor, they need to know. If they are very good, then you have to take it to the next step and consider what is involved and how much land will need to be developed. How does it affect their livelihood, whether it is around streams, forestry, or other natural resources? Those are issues you have to deal with and be very clear that you understand all sides.”

Bryan Trottier

In addition to promoting transparency, Tres-Or hired former NHL hockey player Bryan Trottier as a spokesperson to help promote sports, scholastic achievement and economic benefits for the youth living on the reserve.

“Bryan speaks in all the schools,” Duffett said. “We start with the young and people who want to work. We educate them that mining is not bad and that it is a partner in the community that generates employment and long-term jobs.”

Trottier, a Cree born and raised in Val Marie, Saskatchewan, began working with the company in 2003 through a mutual friend. Initially attracted by Tres-Or’s story, Trottier met with the Timiskaming First Nation and the company’s team over a two-and-a-half-week period. At that time, he received a crash course in geology and diamond exploration.

“I’ve been getting involved in communities my whole life…working with kids and First Nations and letting them know my testimonial, my history and making it to the National Hockey League,” Trottier said. “I wanted to make sure everything was real and that it wasn’t just a story that had no substance.”

Trottier understands the importance of establishing trust in relationships. Raised in an environment where a firm handshake while looking somebody in the eye was better than any piece of paper, he wanted to make sure the memorandum of understanding addressed the community’s traditions, respect for the land and people, as well as offering job opportunities along the way.

“Their (Tres-Or’s) intentions were honourable,” he said. “I think they’ve developed an even stronger understanding because they’ve opened the door of communication with the First Nation people. I think that is the first step – they didn’t go in thinking they knew everything. Instead, they went in with the idea that ‘We want to work with these people.’ “

Duffett said she contacts the First Nation each time she is in the area.

Inspiring youth

In March 2008, Tres-Or sponsored a fundraising hockey game in which Trottier and five other former NHLers participated. While there, they visited the schools to inspire the youth to remain in school and make healthy choices.

“We visited the kids and the spirit of that little town was probably at its all time high,” Trottier said. “It was fun to be part of re-energizing the kids and making them feel like there are people out there that care.”

While Tres-Or develops its diamond projects in Ontario and Quebec, it is also building relationships with people in Ghana, where the company has been contracted to bring an alluvial gold property into production.
“You do it right. You do it well,” Duffett said. “Communication and education are important. If you are successful, it benefits everybody.”

Best practices

  • Communication and consultation
  • Education
  • Working in partnership so everyone benefits
  • Being open and honest to build trust

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