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Noront wants to be ‘world-class’ in First Nations-industry relations

Thursday April 26, 2012

Noront Resources, one of the big players in Ontario’s Ring of Fire, says it wants to set a new world-class standard for how mining companies work with First Nations communities around developments.

Noront’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Paul Semple made the claim during the company’s visit to Nibinamik First Nation on April 12.

“We believe there is an opportunity right now for industry and First Nations (in Ontario) to develop a world-class model of how we can work together,” Semple said. “Our goal is to set the standard, to supersede the current industry standard in how we work with Aboriginal people.”

Noront’s Eagles’ Nest mine is currently undergoing environmental assessment. The company hopes to start construction on the underground mine in 2013, with production expected to begin in 2015.

Semple said the company’s first step in setting a new standard for industry-First Nation relations was establishing a First Nations Advisory Board of former chiefs and First Nations leaders from the region, to help Noront understand the issues and work to address them.

Now the company is working on establishing partnerships with area First Nations on a range of initiatives related to employment training, infrastructure needs and mine supply.

Semple later told Wawatay News that in his opinion, companies in British Columbia and Saskatchewan are leading the way when it comes to Aboriginal partnerships with industry.

He noted Impact Benefit Agreements signed between the government of British Columbia, First Nations in the province and industry that outline revenue sharing between the three parties, including the government sharing portions of its tax revenue from mining operations with local First Nations.

He also cited Cameco, the Saskatchewan uranium mining company, as having done good work developing partnerships with local First Nations.

Semple said Noront has the advantage of being able to watch and learn from what other companies across the country have done, and use best practices established elsewhere.

“We’ve got to understand what they’ve done, what’s worked and what has not,” Semple said.

“We’re starting with a clean sheet of paper, so we have the opportunity to take advantage of the lessons learned and improve in areas that could be done better.”

He repeatedly emphasized the training aspect that a mine offers for local First Nations people. Noront has proposed a training program to the federal government that would help prepare First Nations people for employment in the Ring of Fire.

Semple said it is crucial to get potential employees caught up on their high school education as soon as possible, so that they can be eligible for further training in the skill or trade of their choice.

Noront has proposed that it use its mine site as a “campus,” where employees could get trained before starting work in the mine.

Semple also talked of using the Noront mine camp, expected to house up to 1,000 workers, as a pilot project for ways to build sustainable communities in the north.

He said the camp will explore efficient and effective ways of powering and heating buildings, dealing with waste and creating transportation infrastructure that can later be translated into community development.

The East-West transportation corridor proposed by Noront and endorsed by four Matawa First Nations also ties into the company’s community-building strategy, Semple said.

The road as proposed would be built and operated by the communities and the provincial government, with Noront and other companies paying either a toll for use or signing a user agreement with the communities.

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