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Tribal Council issues how-to resource

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

The Matawa Tribal Council, an umbrella organization representing nine First Nation communities across northwestern Ontario, has published a how-to resource to help mining companies navigate through the relationship-building process with First Nation communities.

Approved in September by the Matawa chiefs, the Interim Mineral Measures Process identifies a number of guiding principles for a successful relationship, including trust, openness, good faith, honesty and accountability.

The document advises mining companies to begin the engagement process by notifying both the First Nation community and the tribal council in writing prior to any activity on the land. If the company doesn’t know who to contact or is uncertain about whose traditional territory is affected, a call to the tribal council or the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is recommended.

Prior to a first meeting, the company will be expected to provide the First Nation with a proposed work plan, along with any publicly available history of activities at the project site. It will also be expected to cover all expenses for the initial meeting.

The document goes on to detail a sample agenda.

January meeting

The tribal council is inviting mining companies operating in Matawa territory to a meeting in Thunder Bay in January to review and comment on a draft of the document.

“It’s important to get feedback from the industry and see what they think about our guidelines and what needs to be changed,” said Brian Davey, economic advisor to the Matawa Tribal Council. A final version of the document will be available at the PDAC International Trade Show and Investors Exchange in March for the benefit of mining companies planning to work in Matawa territory.

“Most communities are receptive to mining, providing it’s done in a way that respects the environment and the rights of the communities, and offers preferred access to employment and business opportunities,” said Davey.

Knowledgable

Several Matawa communities, including Webequie, Marten Falls and Ginoogaming, are working with mining companies and are knowledgeable about the mining cycle. It’s generally understood that benefits available to them during the exploration phase of a project are limited to business and employment opportunities.

Davey advises mining companies to meet with the chief and council first, but to be prepared to make a public presentation to the members of the community as the relationship develops. It’s also a good idea to get to know members of the community in a less formal setting and to make the occasional gesture of goodwill.

“Stick around for a baseball game or a hockey game, put your name on some hockey sweaters or bring some turkeys for Christmas,” he suggested.

The well-publicized standoff last year between Platinex Inc. and the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation isn’t indicative of First Nation attitudes toward the mining industry, said Davey.

“KI was an exception, an anomaly. There are extremes on both sides. KI wanted their land claim to be resolved by the federal government and the feds were turning a blind eye, so they used whatever was at their disposal to get the government’s attention.

“It comes down to interacting, sitting down and understanding each other’s needs. I’m speculating, but that probably didn’t happen enough. Platinex probably should have had more First Nation advisors.”

Davey commended De Beers for the cross-cultural training that it does for workers at its Victor Mine.

“First Nations are beginning to realize that it’s a two-way street,” he said. “They’re beginning to realize that they have to understand how mining companies work, how they deal with their shareholders, how the dollar impacts on them and how they’re affected by the price of gold. I can’t speak about other communities, but in the Matawa region, they’re becoming very astute about how mining companies operate.”

www.matawa.on.ca

Best practices

  • Trust, openness, good faith, honesty and accountability
  • Get to know members of the community in a less formal setting
  • Make a goodwill gesture
  • Make a presentation to the whole community
  • Offer preferred access to employment and business opportunities

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