mining photoBy Marlene Bilous

FORT WILLIAM FN –Lake Superior region Chiefs are looking for more benefits and less paperwork related to mining activities on their traditional territories.

Participants in an Oct. 9-10 Northern Superior Regional Mining Workshop were unanimous in their call for increased capacity at the local level to protect Anishinabek and treaty rights and to respond to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines heavy paperwork burden resulting from the new mining regulations.  Furthermore, they stressed the need for a mining coordinator at the UOI Northern Superior office.

Workshop participants emphasized the need for changes to the new mining regulations made mandatory on April 1, 2013.  Councillor Ed Wawia, Red Rock First Nation, emphasized that mining companies need to come to First Nation band offices and outline their exploration plans before  they set foot on treaty or traditional territory.

“They should make the band office their first stop and we should be involved from the beginning and at each stage of the mining process.”

Wawia added that companies must be responsible to restore land they have explored to its pristine condition.

Deputy Grand Chief Hare challenged mining companies to sit down with First Nations before entering treaty or traditional territory to pursue mining activities.

“It’s time for mining companies to step up to the plate and to sit down with us to discuss mining.  If you don’t want to talk to us, go home!”

The workshop focused on economic development opportunities available to First Nations from the mining industry.  There are currently about 16,000 direct jobs in mining in Ontario with another 7,000 expected to be created in nine new mines scheduled to be built in northwestern Ontario, according to the Ontario Mining Association and Ambassadors Northwest. Only 10% of those jobs are held by Aboriginal workers..

Chief Allen Towegishig, Long Lake #58 First Nation, said “Anishinabek citizens should be educated and trained to be able to benefit from the new mining jobs in the Ring of Fire.  Our people need to be ready to take the new jobs on our lands rather than having people from other provinces and countries getting them.

There was unanimous agreement on the need for the Union of Ontario Indians to pursue avenues for education and skills training for Northern Superior citizens.  Anishinabek Employment and Training Services – which delivers training to nine Northwest Ontario First Nations — made a presentation on their cutting- edge Mining Essentials Course and the participants requested that more of these programs be made available to them.