Skip to main content
skip to content Français Search
Start of main content

Mining and Aboriginals in Canada

Bob Rae is about to become the focal point of a national discussion on the relationship the mining sector, governments and the public has with the indigenous communities in Canada.

Tags

An Important Relationship

Herb Shields looks at the important relationship between the mining sector, governments and indigenous communities.

If people thought Bob Rae was going to fade into the background of Canadian politics once the Liberal Party of Canada chooses their next leader, they are sadly mistaken. Mr. Rae is about to become the focal point of a national discussion on the relationship the mining sector, governments and the public has with the indigenous communities in Canada.

While on a speaking engagement this winter in Sudbury, Ontario, Mr. Rae acknowledged interest in becoming the lead Ring of Fire negotiator for the Matawa Tribal Council. The nine Matawa First Nations have traditional territories that may be impacted by the biggest mine development in Ontario in over a generation – the Ring of Fire.

The Ring of Fire is big, potentially really big, with corresponding expectations from all parties. Currently, 21 companies hold mineral exploration claims in the area. The most common minerals being analyzed include chromite, copper, zinc, gold and kimberlite. Chromite is by far the most important mineral being explored as this could become North America’s only home source and would be considered a strategic resource. Some estimates have the total amount of mineral development between three to eight mines (a combination of open pit and underground operations); this would include new roads, rail, airports and power transmission that would need to cross over 300 kilometers of harsh and undeveloped terrain, such as muskeg, and withstand winter temperatures as low as -30 C to summer highs of +30 C. 

This represents more than just temporary exploration camps and sample drilling. This is a transformative event that will change Matawa First Nations permanently. It is now up to the major mining companies, all levels of government and Mr. Rae to craft an agreement that balances all these complex and interconnected forces.

Jurisdictions across the country have been implementing a variety of means to accomplish the goal of balancing the need to fulfill legal obligations to consult and potentially accommodate rightsholders while providing certainty to the mineral sectors regarding process and expectations. What the mining community should take away from these moves over recent years are two things:

  1. Governments are telling miners to conduct the vast bulk of relationship building, engagement, consultation and accommodation on their behalf, including absorbing the costs in the name of earning social license; and
  2. These new permitting regimes, including in some areas co-management, may be more expensive to finance and follow but it provides greater certainty that there is a clear process to follow and it has legitimacy in the eyes of communities. 

The mining sector has seen these trends evolve across the country in recent years:  

British Columbia’s modern treaty processes include provisions that First Nations own subsurface resources on treaty settlement land. 

  • In Alberta, the Co-Management Agreement between the Metis Settlements and the provincial government established the rules for oil and gas development under Settlement lands including providing significant funding from sub-surface resources.
  • The Manitoba Government has implemented Community Interest Zones where explorationists may develop mineral claims and go to lease; however, exploration permits must be reviewed and approved by the affected First Nations.
  • As of April 1, 2013, all of Ontario’s Mining Act regulations took effect. This includes a graduated permitting regime that requires Exploration Plans or Exploration Permits before work can be undertaken.

This of course does not include the creation of Nunavut in 1999 as a complete Inuit-run territorial government.

Mr. Rae will be facing extremely high expectations from First Nations to include layers of co-management, resource revenue sharing and socioeconomic benefits into a Ring of Fire agreement with Ontario and the major developers like Noront and Cliffs. Over the coming months, the industry will be watching closely if Ontario’s new Mining Act, in coordination of the Far North Act and backed by the massive economic potential of the Ring of Fire, will be enough to address these expectations and provide enough certainty to give the industry confidence to continue to invest hundreds of millions into Canada’s minerals sector.

Authored by Herb Shields

Herb Shields is an Aboriginal Relations Specialist with Stantec. Herb has over 13 years of experience building relationships between the minerals sector, First Nations, Métis and Crown regulators. As a Policy Advisor in the Ontario Public Service, Herb supported the development of policies related to some of Ontario’s key natural resource and Aboriginal initiatives such as Ontario’s Mining Act, Far North Act, Endangered Species Act, Green Energy Act and the Crown’s response to the Ipperwash Inquiry.  

 

 

Mr. Rae acknowledged interest in becoming the lead Ring of Fire negotiator for the Matawa Tribal Council.

Mr. Rae will be facing extremely high expectations from First Nations

comments powered by Disqus

View A Project Near You

Find Stantec projects near you
End of main content To top