Working with Aboriginal Communities
When it comes to collaborating with our local Aboriginal groups, our approach is to be respectful and inclusive as we work to understand the goals and values of the Aboriginal groups in our areas of exploration, development and operation. We seek to engage early and meaningfully and to reach mutually beneficial agreements that reflect an understanding of the history of the area and its traditional uses. We aim to reach agreements that contribute to economic dynamism and social welfare and address the needs, concerns and aspirations of our local Aboriginal communities.
In Canada, we support and encourage our local Aboriginal communities to participate in environmental audits, committees and reclamation projects. They also play a critical role in our efforts to bring traditional knowledge to the way we manage the environmental aspects of our mines, and we believe this plays a crucial role in successful project development. We offer education and training to our local communities and Aboriginal groups to support our policy of striving to hire locally and sourcing services and supplies from nearby.
To identify opportunities in procurement and work with Aboriginal business owners to make their ventures more sustainable over time, we hired business development managers at both New Afton and Rainy River. Business development managers focus on maintaining two-way communication between Aboriginal businesses and the site in relation to business and contract opportunities. They also work with contractors to support the diversification of services and client base as a way to build economic resiliency and avoid dependency.
Our first working relationship with local Aboriginal groups in Canada resulted from our industry-leading Participation Agreement at New Afton in 2008, which has been guiding discussions and providing inputs in the areas of environmental stewardship, business opportunities, employment, education and training, and socio-economics. At the New Afton Mine, 23% of the workforce members are First Nations. The mine enjoys a positive relationship with the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation, which represents the two First Nations (Skeetchestn Band and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Band) in whose asserted traditional territory the mine site is situated.
Rainy River is located near several Aboriginal communities, including 15 First Nations and the local Métis Nation of Ontario community councils. With the ongoing construction of a new mine, our Participation Agreements provide a framework for dialogue and ensure communities benefit from opportunities such as employment, training and contracting associated with the Rainy River operation. During 2016, at our Rainy River site, $75.2 million (29% of our direct total procurement spending) went to Aboriginal companies and joint ventures. This is significant, as substantial resources are invested during the construction phase. At the end of December 2016, 36% of our Rainy River workforce was composed of Aboriginal people.
New Afton has been an example for Rainy River, and now Rainy River can be a model for Blackwater in terms of cementing our relationships with local Indigenous communities. One great illustration of this is the five-day tour we organized for our Indigenous communities from Blackwater – they visited our Rainy River site and the surrounding communities. The objective was to provide our guests with the opportunity to form their own understanding and impressions of a mine under construction, based on first-hand experiences. They were able to witness the potential physical impacts and the opportunities associated with social and economic development. Our Aboriginal groups from Rainy River graciously shared their experiences in working with New Gold, and our Blackwater visitors toured the construction camp, solar power and water treatment facilities, sawmill, and several other areas of the site. They also attended several meetings, including some focusing on business development, employment, training and environmental monitoring.