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December 2009 index

Aboriginal participation in NWT mining: a brief history

PDAC reaches out to Aboriginal youth

Bob Kohoktak: home grown Inuk

Mustang and Sagkeeng First Nation conclude MOU for Manitoba Nickel Projects

Taku River Tlingit First Nation, Eagle Plains and Prize Mining Sign IBA for Yellowjacket Gold Project

MetalCORP and Pic River First Nation sign MOU

Columbia Yukon signs TK Protocol with First Nations

Mining employers and career seekers participate for free in Canada’s first mining Virtual Career Fair

Mining industry has much to offer

Aboriginal participation in NWT mining: a brief history

By Ryan Silke
NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines

“In the mining future of the north, we must not overlook the large Native population already resident here. In these people, already acclimatized to northern living, we have one of our greatest resources.”
– Colin H. Macdonald,
Discovery Mine Manager, 1966

A fundamental challenge to resource development in the Canadian north during the last 50 years has been a societal one: how best to promote extractive uses of the land that can work for the best interests of the collective community and the environment as a whole. Despite the challenges to bring an Aboriginal presence into the mining work force, mining companies in the NWT and Nunavut made positive strides in the 20th century and continue to show improvement.

Sonny Arden, an Aboriginal prospector from Great Bear Lake, NT,
staking a mineral claim.

At its start, our mining industry saw the involvement of individual Aboriginal people through the procurement of services. At Great Bear Lake in the early 1930s, there are records of Sahtu men who were out staking and selling claims.  Famous author and prospector Fred Watt wrote, “Not only are they blocking in large areas of ground, but they are collecting samples as they go. Their interest in geology, sketchy though it may be, is filled with the greatest of enthusiasm.”

During the original Yellowknife gold rush, dozens of greenhorn prospectors arrived who didn’t necessarily have the skills to succeed in bush life. Aboriginal people were there to assist. Mines needing fresh meat looked to Native hunters to harvest it. Dene men found work cutting logs for boilers and packing supplies through the bush on dog team. Johnny Baker was particularly thankful for the Native men who helped him build cabins and the wharf at Yellowknife’s first gold prospect, the Burwash Mine, in 1935. Mineral activity, as strange and foreign it seemed, allowed Aboriginal participation in a new economy, just as the fur trade had.

The Byrne family recognized the value of Native labour and the Rayrock uranium mine north of Bechoko had a large Aboriginal presence; in fact, Tlicho families set up a tent community on the opposite side of Sherman Lake. They were expert wood cutters and could be found on surface work crews.

In 1958, Yellowknife’s vocational wing of Sir John Franklin High School was established, and government hoped to use it to educate Aboriginal people in mining trades. They looked for mining companies to assist. Con Mine offered to bring on four Dene students in 1959 and teach them the art of underground mining. The mine also hosted underground tours during a 1959 prospecting school for Aboriginal men, who learned the basics of claim staking and geology. While the intent of these programs was to acclimatize the participants with careers in mining, there was very little follow-through by government until the 1970s. At the time, it was personal initiative that drove Aboriginal participation in gold mining: Sahtu-born George Blondin worked at Giant Mine for 20 years and was, by all accounts, an exceptional worker.

The Pine Point lead/zinc mine was very active in promoting Aboriginal employment, although it was always a tenuous relationship as nearby Aboriginal communities were uncomfortable with the massive project. Nonetheless, significant progress was made. Its mine manager in the 1970s, William Gibney, had a special interest in Aboriginal communities because he grew up on an Alberta reserve. “We try to show them that if they are good workers, conscientious and attentive, they can become supervisors in the operation” said Gibney, referring to the company’s efforts to train Native men as shift bosses in the open pit. Cominco tapped into GNWT apprenticeship training programs for both Pine Point and Con Mine, and with the commitment of its staff developed several training programs for Natives. At year-end 1977, Pine Point had 52 Aboriginal people on its payroll, or about 8% of its total workforce.

Cominco regularly visited communities on both sides of Great Slave Lake to promote employment opportunities to Band Councils. Arrangements were also made to fly community leaders to Yellowknife and Pine Point to experience at first-hand a mining operation in order to alleviate misunderstandings or fears about working at a mine.

Looking at the Arctic, Aboriginal involvement in the mining industry dates back to the Rankin Inlet nickel mine on Hudson’s Bay in the 1950s where an entire community was built to service the mine. It was short-lived but the mine made incredible progress by instituting Inuit labour. Social licensing, which we consider a more modern phenomenon, got its start in the early 1980s when mining projects such as Cullaton Lake, Polaris, and Lupin signed socio-economic agreements with the GNWT to guarantee northern employment.

Several Yellowknives Dene found long term employment at these high arctic mining operations as well. Colomac signed similar deals with Tlicho communities when it first started construction in 1989. It should be remembered that the standards for socio-economic considerations, environmental performance, and community consultation were either vastly different or non-existent in the early years of mining. This reality often leads to the idea that Aboriginals were not involved in mining activities. However, the record shows that job opportunities were plenty for those that wanted them and our mines were very proactive in bringing northerners into the mining way of life. Ultimately everything is a learning experience. The lessons of the 20th century have guided current industry-Aboriginal relations and these too will no doubt evolve in time.

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PDAC reaches out to Aboriginal youth

PDAC Mining Matters is committed to promoting the importance of the minerals industry to Aboriginal youth through the distribution of educational resources, the provision of educational opportunities, and exposure to mineral and mining industry career opportunities and professionals. The Aboriginal Youth Outreach Program is designed to engage youth in Earth sciences, providing them with the opportunity to develop skills, competencies and knowledge through Earth science, career, and skills development education.

The Aboriginal Youth Outreach Program provides students with an exciting educational experience in a camp setting. Learning about mining, the minerals sector and career options are achieved through hands-on activities and field trips. In 2008, PDAC Mining Matters partnered with Outland and Confederation College to support the First Nations Natural Resource Youth Employment Program (FNNRYEP), designed to facilitate future employment in the natural resource sector. The FNNRYEP, held in Upsala Ontario, is a seven-week live-in professional and personal development program. Twenty-six youth, aged 15 to 19, traveled from fifteen northern Ontario Aboriginal communities to participate in the 2008 program. PDAC Mining Matters provided five days of thematic educational programming that included exposure to all of the phases in the mining cycle, including geosciences, environmental science, careers education and mining, as well as a visit to North American Palladium’s Lac Des Iles mine operation. In 2009, Mining Matters again participated in the FNNRYEP, delivering six days of Earth science, mineral exploration and mining sector programming to 30 youth from eighteen different communities.

Building on the success of the 2008 Ontario FNNRYEP camp PDAC Mining Matters presented programming at the Manitoba Rangers Program-a first year, pilot program based on the FNNRYEP model. Fourteen youth from ten different communities participated in the program. In Manitoba the youth were introduced to minerals, rocks, exploration, environmental science, careers education and reclamation. The youth were also provided with a tour of Hudbay Minerals Flin Flon mining and smelting operations.

The Ontario FNNRYEP and Manitoba Rangers programs are delivered by PDAC Mining Matters Earth science education specialists and professional mentors from the mineral exploration and mining sectors.

The PDAC Mining Matters Aboriginal Youth Outreach Program also uses workshops to introduce teachers to Earth science educational resources. Educator workshops showcase PDAC Mining Matters curriculum correlated kits that contain lesson plans, information bulletins, learning activities, rock and mineral samples, equipment and additional learning resources. Each year PDAC Mining Matters extends this program to First Nations communities through teacher workshops and community presentations.

November 2007 marked the commencement of a focused effort to deliver PDAC Mining Matters educational resource workshops to Aboriginal Communities in Northwestern Ontario. Since then we have visited sixteen communities to deliver workshops and cultivate partnerships.

In an effort to provide education and to cultivate new and existing partnerships PDAC Mining Matters also attends Aboriginally-focused conferences. We regularly host a booth at the Canadian Aboriginal festival and deliver hands on learning activities to students attending the event’s Education Day. PDAC Mining Matters also attends the Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Association Conference, the Learning Together Conference-an event focused on fostering relations between Aboriginal Communities and mineral exploration and mining interests, the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation’s Blueprint for the Future – a series of national career fairs designed to attract Aboriginal high school students to the wide array of potential careers available in all employment sectors, and the Manitoba Mining and Minerals Convention. Attendance at these events provide PDAC Mining Matters with the opportunity to engage with Aboriginal youth, leaders, mentors, and the government and industry partners who support our Aboriginal Youth Outreach Program’s important initiatives.

The success of the PDAC Mining Matters Aboriginal Youth Outreach Program is owed, in part, to the dedication of Aboriginal Education Specialist Barbara Green Parker. For more information about the Aboriginal Youth Outreach Program contact Barbara Green Parker at

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Bob Kohoktak: home grown Inuk

By Shirley Collingridge

Self-titled “home-grown Inuk” Bob Kohoktak says he enjoys the ideal life at Sabina Silver Corporation. The camp worker says, “It’s like home away from home. Everybody treats you good and everybody’s happy with me being here so I can’t complain about that.”
He also relishes “being out in the bush, being out in the tundra, being with the people.”

In the Inuit language, Inuk means “person or man” and this Inuit man appreciates that his company supplies transportation to and from site. “We get regular skiffs at home,” he said. “From Yellowknife we get the Twin Otter. It takes two hours from Yellowknife to here.”

During his 8-hour, seven-day shifts, Kohoktak gets to see plenty of Arctic wildlife – muskrat, caribou, fox, wolf, wolverine, bear and squirrels. Between shifts, he and his camp buddies enjoy ice and fresh water fishing for lake trout and grayling.

Despite the companionship at camp, Kohoktak misses his five young children, aged five through fifteen, and phones them frequently during his four-week stints in camp. Despite the periods of separation, he felt he could not pass up the excellent opportunity when he learned of an opening at Sabina’s Silver Corporation’s Hackett River Silver-Zinc Project.

“One of my cousins got ahold of me,” he said. “The project manager sent us some information and a course – Supervisor Level 1 and Supervisor Level 2.”

Kohoktak studied and passed the Supervisor I course. He also holds Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) accreditation. After six years with Sabina

Silver Corporation and previous experience at the Lupin Mine, Kohoktak understands safety needs at a precious metal site. Part of that knowledge includes what to do when wildlife appears unexpectedly.

“Everybody has to kind of be aware of bears,” he said. “We just stay put and let everybody know there is a bear in camp. We get the truck up and running so we can chase out the bear.”

He also passes on this wisdom to his children, “Keep in school. That way they will know what they will do in the future,” he said. “They already know our land uses and that.”

While Kohoktak himself plans to stay with Sabina Silver Corporation during his working years, eventually this “home-grown Inuk” will retire in the North. Born in Yellowknife and raised in Kugluktuk, he dreams of being “At home hunting a little bit of everything – wolf, wolverine, bear, caribou, muskrat,” and marketing pelts.

In the meantime he reminds us all, “Work safe and look out for bears. Keep your head up all the time.”

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Mustang and Sagkeeng First Nation conclude MOU for Manitoba Nickel Projects

The Board of Directors of Mustang Minerals Corp. announced November 19th that Mustang and the Manitoba based Sagkeeng First Nation had concluded and signed an Agreement, in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated November 18, 2009. The Agreement is modeled on the Memorandum of Understanding between the Mining Association of Manitoba and the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, Inc., a Manitoba First Nation organization.

The Agreement is the first step in the process of engagement between Mustang and the Sagkeeng to promote greater participation in the mineral industry by the Sagkeeng First Nation as well as greater understanding and co-operation between the Sagkeeng First Nation and Mustang Minerals Corp. – a mineral exploration and development Company focused on responsible and sustainable mineral development. The Memorandum of Understanding is intended to enhance and support the recognition and an enhanced mutual understanding of constitutionally established Aboriginal and treaty rights and economic development processes and opportunities within the current regulatory framework for both parties.

Mustang’s most advanced project is the Maskwa Nickel project for which a prefeasibility study was completed in May 2008. Since that time Mustang has continued exploration and project development activities at the project. An updated resource estimate was announced October 26, 2009 for the project. Mustang will henceforth call the project the “Makwa” Nickel Project to reflect the Ojibway pronunciation for the word “bear”.

Mustang’s other exploration interests in southeast Manitoba which are within the Sagkeeng FN traditional land area are the Mayville copper-nickel project and the Irgon lithium-rare earths project.

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Taku River Tlingit First Nation, Eagle Plains and Prize Mining Sign IBA for Yellowjacket Gold Project

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN), Eagle Plains Resources Ltd. and Prize Mining Ltd. jointly announce that the parties have completed and executed a formal Impact and Benefit Agreement (IBA) relating to mineral exploration and gold production activities at the Yellowjacket Gold Project located near Atlin, British Columbia. The project is operated through the Yellowjacket Joint-Venture (“YJV”) comprised of Eagle Plains and Prize Mining. The completion of this document is a very important event and may signify a new era of Aboriginal participation in mineral resource exploration and extraction in British Columbia. The TRTFN is hopeful that the signing of this IBA will pave the way for future relationships with third party interests in the TRTFN traditional territory.

TRTFN Clan Director for Land and Resources, Bryan Jack stated that, “The TRTFN is supportive of responsible mineral exploration and mine development in the TRTFN Territory. In addition, the TRTFN are keen to ensure that the benefits from all responsible development ought to be realized by the TRTFN and Atlin community residents.”

The Agreement recognizes that the Yellowjacket Project is located within the TRTFN Territory; and, the YJV holds certain interests and rights granted by British Columbia to extract gold resources. Furthermore, the parties recognize that they have a mutual and beneficial interest in cooperating with each other to advance and complete the Yellowjacket Project in a timely, environmentally responsible and orderly manner.

The Agreement provides employment and training opportunities to TRTFN members and contracts for fuel purchases and other services necessary for mining and exploration activities, including a contract to conduct environmental monitoring at the Project.

In addition, Yellowjacket has agreed to contract TRTFN to study the feasibility of supplying power to the Project from a hydroelectric facility nearby that is owned and operated by the Atlin Tlingit Development Corporation. In turn, TRTFN has agreed to provide to support the Project and grant access, use and occupation to the joint venture to conduct the project within its traditional territory.

The agreement sets out a clear understanding between the parties of the opportunities and benefits that may result from such an undertaking, while taking into consideration the challenges relating to economic sustainability and responsible environmental stewardship. The document itself reflects the clear and forthright communication present throughout the negotiating process and further underscores the mutual respect of all parties.

Spokesperson for Taku River Tlingit First Nation, John Ward, stated that, “It is important that when a mining company comes into Tlingit territory to explore and develop mineral resources, that they first come and talk to us about the proposed activity, and get our consent. The Tlingit people need to be assured that a mining project can and will be carried out in a manner that contributes to, and does not undermine, the sustainability of the Tlingit culture and land-based economy. Negotiating this agreement with the Yellowjacket joint venture shows that this goal can be achieved in a fair and responsible manner with all parties benefiting. We look forward to a productive relationship with Yellowjacket.”

Tim Termuende, President and CEO of Eagle Plains Resources stated recently, “The Agreement marks an important milestone for the Yellowjacket Project and the British Columbia mining industry as a whole. It demonstrates clearly that cooperation and mutually beneficial relationships between First Nations and the mining industry are both possible and preferable. I would like to thank the TRTFN Leadership and members of the negotiating team for this rewarding experience, and look forward to working further with TRTFN”.

“It is a great pleasure to announce the signing of the IBA,” stated Feisal Somji, chairman of Prize Mining. “I look forward to working alongside the Taku River Tlingit First Nations as we develop the Yellowjacket Project. The TRTFN have been invaluable advisors during this process and I am proud of our joint commitment to environmental responsibility and the local community. Our negotiations have been amicable and beneficial for all parties involved and I look forward to our continued work with the TRTFN.”

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MetalCORP and Pic River First Nation sign MOU

MetalCORP Limited and Pic River First Nation are pleased to announce that they have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a mutually beneficial, co-operative and productive relationship with respect to exploration activities by MetalCORP within the traditional territories of the Pic River First Nation. Based on principles of trust, good faith, mutual respect and mutual benefit, the MOU recognizes the Aboriginal and treaty rights of Pic River First Nation, as well as the legal rights granted to MetalCORP under the Mining Act (Ontario) and other legislation.

The MOU contemplates, among other things, MetalCORP using commercially reasonable efforts to provide opportunities for employment, contracting and other involvement of the members and businesses of the Pic River First Nation and other First Nations in the area in connection with MetalCORP’s exploration activities.

Chief Roy Michano of the Pic River First Nation commented, “We are pleased to have signed this MOU with MetalCORP. It reflects the mutual respect that has developed between us over the past several years and we look forward to continuing to build a strong relationship to realize the benefits and opportunities from the mineral exploration industry.”

“MetalCORP looks forward to continuing to work cooperatively with the Pic River First Nation, as well as all local communities on our various mineral exploration projects,” commented Naomi Nemeth, President and CEO of MetalCORP.

“Our Company is focused on and committed to mineral exploration in Northwestern Ontario and has always accepted responsibility for strong community relations.”

MetalCORP is currently planning to begin the next phase of exploration activities on-site at its Big Lake and Hemlo East properties, both of which rest within the traditional territory of the Pic River First Nation. “These two projects, in addition to MetalCORP’s Pickle Lake, Ontario project, are high priority areas for the Company and key to growing shareholder value,” commented Nemeth.

The Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation is located on the northwestern shores of Lake Superior. A progressive First Nation, Pic River has shown significant achievements in economic development with vested interests in the renewable energy sector. Pic River has also taken a pro-active approach when dealing with mining activities happening within their traditional territory with establishment of a Lands and Resources Department, the development of their own Consultation and Accommodation Law, and by building positive working relationships with third party interests. For more information about Pic River First Nation, please visit the community website at

MetalCORP is a mineral exploration company based in Thunder Bay, Ontario with gold and base metal projects in the Canadian Shield of Northern Ontario, Canada, one of the most prolific mineral districts in the world. The projects, with a total area of more than 85,000 acres, include the Hemlo East property, the Big Lake copper-zinc-silver-gold property, the North Rock copper-nickel-platinum property, and the Dorset, Pickle Lake, Black Bear and Keezhik Lake gold properties. MetalCORP has 49,106,636 common shares outstanding and approximately $1,000,000 in cash and no long-term debt. To find out more about MetalCORP, please visit the website at

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Columbia Yukon signs TK Protocol with First Nations

Columbia Yukon Explorations Inc. is pleased to announce that it has entered into a Traditional Knowledge (TK) Protocol with the Dease River First Nation, Daylu Dena Council, Kwadacha First Nation and Kaska Dena Council (collectively the “BC Kaska”) in connection with the continued exploration and development of the company’s “Storie” Property molybdenum deposit located near Cassiar, British Columbia.

The TK Protocol will assist the parties in establishing the appropriate traditional knowledge practices and procedures for the collection, management, ownership and integration of Kaska traditional knowledge with regard to the exploration and development of the Storie Property. Under the TK Protocol, the BC Kaska have authorized the Dena Kayeh Institute (DKI) as their representative and agent to gather and document existing traditional knowledge that is specific to the Company’s Storie Property project and to provide a “Traditional Knowledge Report and Recommendations” in connection with the Company’s upcoming application for an environmental assessment certificate pursuant to the Environmental Assessment Act of British Columbia. A key purpose of the TK Protocol is to ensure that the Traditional Knowledge Report and Recommendations are accorded full, fair and equitable consideration to other baseline studies in decision-making processes related to the Storie molybdenum project.

“Columbia Yukon is very pleased to have been able to conclude the Traditional Knowledge Protocol which will enable the company to move forward with matters related to the company’s environmental assessment certificate application. We also look forward to working with the BC Kaska to conclude a SEPA (a detailed Social-Economic Participation Agreement) which we believe will bring economic opportunities to the BC Kaska and to the region generally and provide certainty for Columbia Yukon’s Storie Property molybdenum deposit project,” said Douglas Mason, Chairman of Columbia Yukon.

Chief Cat Lee of the Dease River First Nation stated, “The BC Kaska consider the signing of this TK Protocol to be a progressive step forward in our relationship with Columbia Yukon. This Protocol acknowledges the importance of Kaska knowledge of our territory and will ensure that traditional knowledge is weighed equally with western science in the design, planning and potential mitigation measures with respect to this project. Our peoples have occupied the traditional territory from time immemorial and our knowledge of the wildlife, plants and waters of our land are vast and enriched by generations. We expect this knowledge to be respectfully considered in all regulatory processes in light of this Protocol.”

George Miller, Chair of the Kaska Dena Council, added, “We are proud to have a positive, cooperative and beneficial relationship with Columbia Yukon. This Protocol acknowledges not only the important integration of traditional knowledge into the regulatory review of this project within our territory, but it ensures that the Kaska Dena remain the exclusive owners of our traditional knowledge.

“A very important aspect of this Protocol is that the Kaska collect and manage all traditional knowledge through our own institution, the Dena Kayeh Institute. This affirms our governance and the importance the Kaska place on the role of our traditional knowledge should play in government-to-government decision-making.”

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Mining employers and career seekers participate for free in Canada’s first mining Virtual Career Fair

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) is hosting the first Virtual Career Fair for the mining industry. This unique event was created in response to a survey of mining employers at the CIM conference and online earlier this year where it was confirmed that a virtual career fair would assist employers with their current recruitment challenges.

What can exhibitors and delegates expect? Virtual booths are multimedia rich including pictures, videos and downloadable materials customised in line with employer brand. Exhibitors and delegates can communicate directly through written, audio and video messaging throughout the one day event.

“There are many benefits for employers interested in exhibiting at the virtual career fair” says Melanie Sturk, Director of Attraction, Recruitment and Retention at MiHR. “Employers will have access to pan-Canadian and international employment seekers, zero travel costs, reduced carbon footprint and no time away from the office. Most importantly, being able to chat directly with career seekers can expedite the whole recruitment process.”

“Mining companies are using more and more tools to find the next generation of professionals. The virtual career fair is one way that job seekers and employers can exchange information. Cameco is looking forward to meeting career seekers at the event” says Sean Junor, Senior Specialist - Workforce Planning at Cameco.

Registration for exhibitors/booths is open until December 18, 2009 at and career seekers can register now until January 26th Career seekers or employers can also email info[at] for more information on the event.

The Virtual Career Fair is one of many tools developed by MiHR in response to the labour market challenges of the mining industry. With the economy on the rebound and retirement eligibility at an all time high, the mining labour shortage is more prevalent than ever. Other innovative virtual products and tools include the MineMentor program which connects students to industry mentors and career portals and A guide to MiHR’s resources including labour market information, inclusion tools and HR best practices can be found at Careers seekers curious about what a typical day in mining entails can view mining reality TV at MiHR’s careers website or, before attending the virtual career fair.

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sector Council Program. The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada

Attracting, recruiting, and transitioning workers for the mining industry is one of MiHR’s key priorities. MiHR is undertaking a number of projects to manage this HR priority. MiHR contributes to the sustainability of the Canadian mining industry by helping employers to make the best use of all potential sources of labour supply including youth, women, Aboriginal peoples, new Canadians, transitioning workers, and mature workers.

Through this priority area MiHR addresses several labour market issues identified in previous research, specifically: the lack of diversity and the anticipated skills shortage in the sector, and the myths and misconceptions widely held by youth, parents, educators, and career counsellors about the Canadian mining industry. The activities of this priority area will help:

  • Address attraction, retention, and transition challenges
  • Diversify the workforce by increasing the participation of under-represented groups in the mining workforce (women, Aboriginal people, immigrants, etc.)
  • Raise awareness among industry stakeholders about the career opportunities in the sector
    MiHR is the sector council for the Canadian minerals and metals industry. A recognized leader in the development and implementation of national human resources solutions, MiHR contributes to the strength, competitiveness, and sustainability of the Canadian mining sector. The products and services supporting our endeavours are based on sound research into the skills and labour market issues that matter most to the Canadian mining industry.

Explore for More is the mining industry’s brand to promote careers in mining. It reflects changing perceptions about mining among key target audiences for attraction and recruitment: women, youth, Aboriginal peoples, new Canadians. Through the creation tools including the video library, photo gallery, appropriate target group messages, the brand will help promote careers in the mining industry, de-mystify the sector, and reinforce targeted attraction efforts.


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Mining industry has much to offer

By Christine McFarlane

When one hears about the mining industry, there is usually a negative perception.  Most people believe that it involves poor wages and menial labor that is not environmentally sustainable and takes place within hazardous caverns deep within the ground. However, according to Melanie Sturk, Director of Attraction, Retention and Transition at MiHR (Mining Industry Human Resources Council), this “misconception could not be more wrong or outdated.”

Mining companies have said that the main barriers inhibiting Aboriginal Peoples from participating in the industry are related to lack of experience, inadequate education and training and the associated training costs for new Aboriginal employees who are often not in possession of the required basic skills. On the other hand, the industry also states that there are relatively few jobs so specialized that they require skills that are not transferable to other industries.

This is where MiHR becomes involved. MiHR is the sector council for the Canadian minerals and metals industry. As a recognized leader in the development and implementation of national human resources solution, MiHR contributes to the strength, competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian mining sector. The Mining Industry Human Resources Council strongly believes that Aboriginal peoples are a key resource “for mining and mining is a key industry for Aboriginal communities.” Through Aboriginal Engagement Initiatives, MiHR is addressing the issue of making information about career opportunities available to Aboriginal communities.

Aboriginal inclusion in the mining sector is key, according to Sturk because “mine sites are often located in remote locations and Aboriginal communities are often close by.” This helps Aboriginal people because it can mean that they don’t have to go far from their communities to find employment. Also, with the relatively young and growing Aboriginal population and the proximity of Aboriginal communities to mining projects, the mining industry is presented with unique opportunities to source its future workforce from within these communities.

Sturk relates how “with the advancement of technology, the mining sector is an exciting place to be employed in, compared to the sector of 30 years ago.” She states that not only are the days gone “requiring brute strength for most positions in the mining industry, but the industry also offers more diversity because as there will be a mass exodus of baby boomers in the next decade , jobs will open up and bring about “loads of opportunities for those who are in under-represented groups, such as women, youth and Aboriginal peoples.”

As a major player in Canada’s economy and a leader on the world stage, the growth and prosperity in the Canadian mining industry is important to carry on.  According to MiHR, “the mining and mineral processing industry employed approximately 363,000 peoples in 2007, Ontario and Quebec each account for more than 18% of these jobs, while Alberta accounts for more than 34%. It is also important to note “one in every 46 Canadian jobs is related to mining and in the goods producing sector, mining accounts for one in every ten jobs.”

Sturk relates that though ‘most jobs require a grade 12 education and some jobs require a college or university degree, getting into mining can be exciting because over the “roughly 120 jobs available, the diversity in what you can become is amazing. You can become a “geologist, an engineer, a trades person, get a position in business and communications, become a camp manager, a cook, a pilot, a heavy equipment operator and also obtain positions in Health and Safety.”

As a result of a 2005 report prepared by the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) that concluded “that within the next decade some 81,000 jobs would become available in the minerals industry, as a result of a 40 percent retirement rate, an aging workforce and increased mineral production, MiHR has undertaken a number of projects including the development of the Mining Industry Human Resources Guide for Aboriginal Communities.  This guide that has been developed has become a resource for Aboriginal community organizations, career planners and practitioners, community leaders and individuals.

Within the Guide, insight is given into the education and training needs of the mining industry, as well as information on jobs and career opportunities. It includes job profiles of individuals employed in various mineral activities and in positions with a variety of skill requirements.

There is a range of Aboriginal-focused training programs that have been developed through successful partnerships between the mining industry, Aboriginal communities, colleges and governments. For example, the training and employment partnerships established under the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Partnership (ASEP) program of Human Resources and Social Development Canada and the collaboration of the Yukon bases “Get into It” partnership (announced July 8, 2008), which aims to provide 500 Aboriginal people with skills training leading to an estimated 296 long term jobs in the mining and resources based sectors.

Lastly, according to Sturk “mining is the second highest paying sector in Canada. Wages and packages are very competitive.  The average weekly earnings for a mining industry worker in 2007 were 30%, 24%, and 22% higher than the earnings of workers in the construction, manufacturing, forestry and finance/insurance sectors respectively. If you have an interest in learning more about the mining industry, “there are a number of online resources that are available to you. These resources range from MiHR publications and valuable links to external websites to a library of video resource material. You can also contact MiHR at and we will be happy to assist you.

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