Indigenous involvement in the Canadian mining sector is growing. In 2015, an estimated 230 indigenous suppliers provided goods and services to mining operations, according to a Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) report, and 40 per cent of all indigenous businesses were working in mining or extraction, up from 13 per cent in 2010. The report, produced by the CCAB and Engineers Without Borders Canada’s (EWB) Mining Shared Value initiative and released in late November, made several recommendations to increase these numbers further.
The report documents the range of working relationships between mining companies, indigenous entrepreneurs and aboriginal economic development corporations (AEDCs) across Canada, from joint-venture partnerships and impact and benefit agreements, to maintaining and promoting indigenous supplier directories in key mining districts.
“One of the best practices we’ve seen is outlining key performance indicators between mining company procurement staff and aboriginal businesses,” said Anthea Darychuk, report co-author and project manager at Mining Shared Value. “Both parties can lay out their expectations and agree what success looks like, which prevents unreasonable expectations and promotes trust.”
There are still barriers to overcome, explained Darychuk, including indigenous people having difficulty accessing financing, historical legacies with governments, and a complex patchwork of federal and provincial training programs that do not fully benefit the growing indigenous workforce. The report found that clearer guidelines with respect to consultation would benefit both mining companies and indigenous communities. Despite these limitations, indigenous business capacity has steadily increased in recent years.
One case study in the report profiled the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation (TNDC), which has partnered with private companies on projects in the resource-rich Tahltan territory – which includes British Columbia’s booming Golden Triangle mining district – for almost 30 years. One week before the report was released the TNDC and B.C.-based Geotech Drilling announced the formation of a new company, Tahltech Drilling Services Ltd., a strategic partnership and the fifth of its kind that Geotech has signed with First Nations in the province since 2013. Geotech will provide subcontracting, employment and training opportunities to Tahltan members through the new company.
“The partnership significantly strengthens TNDC’s capability and competitiveness in resource and industrial development as the economic recovery unfolds,” said TNDC CEO Garry Merkel in a release. Tahltech Drilling has already put in its first competitive bid for drilling work for a major Golden Triangle mining company.