Mining Companies Attempt to Connect With Aboriginals at Conference

PDAC is holding its annual conference in Toronto from March 4-7, drawing mineral nerds from all over the world and focusing partly on aboriginal relations

Mineral nerds are pouring into Toronto this weekend for the annual meeting of the Prospect & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC).

Among the programs and meetings on its docket are several pertaining to aboriginal relations, as mining companies attempt to get the indigenous on their side to get access to the vast mineral deposits that lie under territorial lands.

Miners are paying more and more attention to the aboriginal communities that sit atop mineral deposits. With the advent of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the need to consult aboriginals on matters of digging up their turf has become paramount. Mining industry leaders have created several workshops and panels during the conference to help members understand how to approach and work with the indigenous of Canada.

Mining the opportunities: Training Aboriginal people for the 21st century aims to tap aboriginal talent in a “new approach to aboriginal community engagement,” the agenda says.

An aboriginal awareness training workshop that took place on March 2, before the conference proper began (that runs from March 4-7 in Toronto), focuses on helping its members understand more about how to work with aboriginal communities.

“This program has been designed to create greater understanding and enhance communications between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people,” PDAC’s brochure said. “It serves as a tool for gaining awareness and understanding of a group of people who, through historical events, location, law, legislation and policies have remained separated, isolated, segregated and marginalized from mainstream society. The building of trusting and respectful relationships will occur through awareness, comfort, confidence and much improved communications.”

The description of the panel “The Consultation Conundrum” highlights some of the gaps in understanding and expectations faced by both the mining companies and aboriginals.

“The concept and practice of aboriginal consultation has raised different expectations and produced different terms of engagement,” PDAC’s agenda says. “The duty to consult lies with the Crown; how- ever, the procedural aspects have been delegated to project proponents. Many aboriginal communities have developed their own consultation protocols that may not align with both the Crown and industry.”

PDAC expects 1,000 exhibitors and 27,700 attendees from 120 countries, according to the conference brochure.