An Indigenous business organization in northwestern Ontario says the future of the mining sector in the region is bright, but companies need to be sure to involve Indigenous communities in the process.
Last week, Thunder Bay’s Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) released its new Mining Readiness Strategy document, which says 15 mines are expected to come online in northwestern Ontario in the next decade.
Those mines are in turn expected to create more than 3,000 jobs and provide substantial boosts to the economies of Thunder Bay, and other communities in the region.
“This is great news that’s coming out related to the potential … not only for indigenous people, but for the city, the municipality, the region to be a true leader in the mining supply and services chain, and the boom that could potentially be there related to job growth and economic output,” said Jason Rasevych, president of the Anishnawbe Business Professional Association (ABPA), and a member of Ginoogaming First Nation. “We’ve got a lot to look forward to.”
But Rasevych said for Indigenous communities to share in the forecasted economic benefits, they need to be included in the mining cycle as early as possible.
Not only will that allow Indigenous communities and mining companies to build a relationship, but it will also give Indigenous communities a chance to explore ways to mitigate environmental and cultural impacts, and tie in infrastructure development projects that would benefit the community, he said.
“There’s still challenges related to access to capital and trying to find the right partnerships that work well with the communities,” Rasevych said. “But those issues have always been there.”
“We’re working to break down all of the barriers for entry into the mining sector, for Indigenous business,” he said. “But I’m very optimistic as long as Indigenous peoples rights are respected, then we should be able to find a level ground.”