First nations seek mining buy-in: indigenous communities want a fair stake in mining industry.

Author:Kelly, Lindsay

On any given day, Cheryl Recollet's desk is littered with mining exploration plans, government notices, permit requests, and more, but with limited resources, it can be a struggle to vet them all in a timely manner.

Yet the people of Wahnapitae First Nation are determined to be active and educated participants in the resource development activity taking place in their traditional territory.

"We recognize that in order to make informed decisions, we must actively participate in the process," said Recollect, director of sustainable development for Wahnapitae First Nation, located 60 kilometres north of Sudbury.

"How do we make sure this information is getting to our leadership if we aren't aware of what's happening at all stages?"

Since its relationship with IN CO (now Vale) was first established in 1996--Wahnapitae helped inform the closure of INCO's now-defunct Whistle Mine--the community has slowly but surely gained knowledge and expertise in the area of mineral exploration.

The community is on board with mineral exploration and development, but with several priorities in mind: stewardship of the land, enhanced involvement, developing partnerships, and achieving community needs.

"Our resource development policy provides a coordinated approach," Recollet said. "It basically says that if you're going to be operating in our territory, please let us know."


Today, Wahnapitae First Nation has active relationships with Vale, Wallbridge, KGHM, Glencore, True Claim and Mohawk Garnet. It's established its own consulting company, Tahgaiwinini Technical and Environmental Services Group, which provides environmental services to neighbouring communities and industry partners.

Recollet was one of three speakers to present to the Sudbury Prospectors and Developers Association in September to share their Indigenous perspectives on mineral exploration in the Sudbury area.

Wahnapitae's neighbour, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, located nine kilometres west of Sudbury, has a large traditional territory, but has had a very small stake in mineral development, said Robert Paishegwon, Atikameksheng's lead community consultant.

"When proponents are interested in doing exploration work or working on our traditional territories, it's a pretty easy process," he said. "What we're looking for is for them to come to our band office, or have a letter submitted stating their intents and what they're going to be doing on the lands, so that our community can make an informed...

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