Organization gearing up to promote Indigenous-mining relationships: Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Minerals Development will be based in Sudbury.

AuthorKelly, Lindsay

Dawn Madahbee Leach is hopeful that a newly forged partnership between Waubetek Business Development Corp. and Rio Tinto will be just the first of many positive working relationships between Indigenous people and the mining industry.

In November, the global mining giant announced it would invest $1 million over five years into Waubetek's Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Minerals Development, which is being established in Northern Ontario.

"Our partnership aims to grow the opportunity for Indigenous communities to participate in a meaningful way in the benefits that can come from responsible mineral development," said Simone Niven, Rio Tinto's group executive of corporate relations, in a Nov. 27 news release announcing the partnership.

"North America can provide many of the essential materials for the transition to renewable energy, such as copper, rhenium and cobalt. Indigenous communities will be able to better understand the mineral resources in their traditional lands and make informed decisions about whether to develop them."

Rio Tinto is one of the world's largest mining companies. Headquartered in London, England, it has operations in 35 countries across six continents and employs 47,000 people. Its assets include aluminum, copper, diamonds, gold, industrial minerals (borates, titanium dioxide and salt), iron ore, and uranium.

Madahbee Leach, Waubetek's long-time general manager, said the collaboration began during the 2019 conference of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) in Toronto.

Waubetek was there debuting its Association of Indigenous Mining Suppliers, part of the organization's Aboriginal Mining Strategy for North-East Ontario, which was launched in 2015.

The Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Minerals Development is the next endeavour under the strategy. It will serve as a clearinghouse of information on best practices related to consultation with Indigenous peoples in advance of mineral exploration and development.

The conversation with Rio Tinto began after the company expressed interest in getting involved in the initiative.

"They realize that, although they have some good working relationships with Indigenous people around the world, there could be an improvement," Madahbee Leach said, "and they agreed with the vision that we have for the centre to build capacity amongst Indigenous people to make informed decisions when it comes to resource development and mineral development."

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