The [Ontario] provincial government's recent announcement of a $3.1 million investment to provide skills training and community governance and capacity building in six First Nations communities is welcome news. This investment will facilitate the participation of First Nations residents in Ring of Fire developments.
Training and development will include the areas of heavy equipment operation, pre-employment trades training and general educational development preparation. The six First Nations that will benefit from this investment include Webequie, Marten Falls, Eabametoong, Aroland, Neskantaga and Nibinamik.
"The Ontario Mining Association has been a long time supporter of education and skills training in First Nations communities," said OMA president Chris Hodgson. "According to a recent economic impact study by the University of Toronto [titled] Mining: Dynamic and Dependable for Ontario's Future, Aboriginals comprise 9.7% of the industry's workforce. This investment by government will better position First Nations residents to take advantage of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, which will arise as the Ring of Fire is developed."
As well as being mining specific, training programs also include related and integral activities such as water and wastewater management, wildlife monitoring, environmental monitoring related to mine development, media relations and support services for mining.
The Ring of Fire is located about 540 km northeast of Thunder Bay and it covers an area of about 5,000 km2. It represents one of the most significant mineral deposits discovered in Ontario in over a century with multi-generational mineral production opportunities.
To date, mining companies have discovered deposits of chromite, nickel, gold, iron and platinum group metals. The most advanced projects in the Ring of Fire at this time are OMA member Cliffs Natural Resources' Black Thor chromite project and OMA member Noront's Eagle's Nest nickel project.
Mining is the largest private sector employer in Canada. Aboriginals account for 3.8% of Canada's population and they are 7.5% of mining industry workforce nationally. A full version of Mining: Dynamic and Dependable for Ontario's Future, which can be downloaded, can be found on the OMA website (OMA.on.ca).
*Peter McBride is manager of communications at the Ontario Mining Association.