Northern Manitoba chiefs representing First Nations on province's new Mining Advisory Council

Several Northern Manitoba First Nation chiefs as well as mining industry representatives from companies such as Vale, Hudbay Minerals and San Gold are members of Manitoba's new Mining Advisory Council which aims to help First Nations benefit from the development of new mines, Mineral Resources Minister Dave Chomiak announced Nov. 8.

"First Nations that want to participate will be partners every step of the way as new mines are brought on line and they will share in the benefits of resource development," said Chomiak in a press release. "There will be new training opportunities, good jobs, revenue sharing and a range of social and economic benefits for First nations communities. This will also send an important message to those who want to invest in Manitoba's mining sector that we're open for business.

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First Nations representatives on the Mining Advisory Council include co-chairs Chief Donovan Fontaine of Sagkeeng First Nation and Chief Ron Evans of Norway House Cree Nation, along with Chief Philip Buck of Mosakahiken Cree Nation, Chief Clarence Easter of Chemawawin Cree Nation, Chief Jerry Primrose of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Chief Andrew Colomb of Marcel Colomb Cree Nation, Chief Gilbert Andrews of God's Lake First Nation, Keewatin Tribal Council Tribal Grand Chief Irvin Sinclair and Opaskwayak Cree Nation Chief Michael Constant.

"The work of the advisory council will develop meaningful consultation processes and build stronger, more respectful relationships with First Nation communities," said Evans. "Being at the table will ensure a strong voice for our communities and employment and economic opportunities for our people."

"As independent and sovereign nations, we need to be at the table and be involved," said Chief Donavan Fontaine, Sagkeeng First Nation, and co-chair of the Mining Advisory Council. "Our work with the Mining Advisory Council will help ensure our people receive equitable benefits from mining done in our territories."

Mining industry representatives on the advisory council include Vale's vice-president of Manitoba Operations Lovro Paulic, who is also chair of the Mining Association of Manitoba, along with Brad Lantz, Hudbay Minerals Manitoba Business Unit vice-president, San Gold executive vice-president Dale Ginn, Wildcat Exploration vice-president of exploration Tom Lewis and former Hudbay Minerals executive Tom Goodman.

"This is a positive step towards building a more sustainable future for the mining industry in the province of Manitoba," said Paulic. "We look forward to listening to and learning from one another, so we can better understand issues and opportunities, and move forward in a respectful, mutually beneficial manner."

The role of the Mining Advisory Council is to ensure that First Nations that want to participate are always consulted onevery aspect of resource, said Chomiak, with specific duties including providing advice and recommendations on resource revenue and benefit sharing with First nations, promoting and increasing First Nations business opportunities such as joint ventures, participating in training and employment initiatives, strengthening environmental protection and stewardship, and ensuring full consultations continue with First Nations.

"Reconciliation, recognition, respect and responsible development are at the heart of these discussions," said Chomiak, adding the ideas generated by the council might be useful in other resource areas. "None of these initiatives will replace consultations with communities or the ability for independent First Nations to pursue separate processes, but they will assist in improving communications and understanding."

Chomiak said the creation of the council builds on other government initiatives regarding education, training and aboriginal business development such as the $4.6 million Northern Manitoba Mining academy in Flin Flon, more than $13 million worth of orphaned and abandoned mine site rehabilitation projects awarded to First nations contractors and business owners, and the Mineral Resources Training Program partnership between government, the mining industry and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak that provides pre-employment training in mining-related occupations like prospecting, exploration, mining and environmental management.

Mining is Manitoba's second-largest resource industry with 40 exploration and mining companies that employ more than 900 aboriginal workers, the province says. In 2012, the combined value of mineral production for metals and industrial minerals in Manitoba was more than $1.5 billion.

The province's seven mines produce 100 per cent of Canada's cesium, 13.1 per cent of Canada's nickel, 12.9 per cent of Canada's zinc, 7.3 per cent of Canada's copper, 5.4 per cent of Canada's gold and 5.2 per cent of Canada's silver.

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