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Fanfare fades as mining kit scrutinized

Ottawa and industry groups spent $50,000 crafting the Mining Information Kit for Aboriginal Communities that, by itself, is useless.

Ottawa and industry groups spent $50,000 crafting the Mining Information Kit for Aboriginal Communities that, by itself, is useless.

“There’s no value to this the way it is,” said Jerry Asp, vice-president of the Canadian Aboriginal Minerals Association, gesturing at the 100-page publication his group helped produce.

The “living document” was drafted over five years by Natural Resources Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Mining Association of Canada and Asp’s association.

“I guarantee that, if you send this to a band office, it’s going to sit on the shelf,” said Asp, former chief of the Tahltan Band Council, after endorsing the publication in front of a crowd at the Energy and Mines Ministers Conference in Whitehorse on Tuesday.

The booklet gives First Nations people information to make an informed decision, said Asp.

But aboriginal communities need workshops to teach people how to use the booklet and become involved in the mining sector, he said.

“Hopefully we’ll negotiate three regional workshops, one in Western Canada, one in Central Canada and one in Eastern Canada.”

Fifty workshops are needed, he said.

But it’s not clear who will fund them.

“Haven’t got a clue,” said Asp.

“But I know it’s going to be significant.

“It’s the travel. It’s bringing people from remote areas.”

The mining kit, published in English and French but not Inuktitut or any First Nations language, was released amid much fanfare at the conference.

In simplistic terms, it defines the mining process in detail and notes, with minimal detail, potential environmental hazards.

“This is an example of what can be achieved when governments, industry and communities work together,” said Natural Resources Canada minister Gary Lunn.

Benefits of mining will be distributed among communities where activity occurs, said Lunn.

“This is a source of information for aboriginal people and I feel it will combat a lot of the misinformation about mining that is being passed on to aboriginal communities,” said Asp.

“Fair, concise information is what our communities are looking for, not the mish-mash of scare tactics and information that has been handed out up until now.”

Asp, a miner who characterized himself not as pro-mining but “pro-development,” did not run for re-election in June after 35 Tahltan elders occupied his office in Telegraph Creek, British Columbia, in 2005.

“I didn’t need the headache,” he said.

“Without economic opportunities our people are in the doldrums.

“I was a chief for four years, and all you do as a chief is administer your own poverty.

“There’s not one program in the department of Indian Affairs that enhances our ability to move forward as people. Not one. So all we do is administer our own poverty.

“Mining gives us an opportunity to move forward.”

Another group of Tahltan members blockaded a road to a mine in BC in September 2005.

Protestors are operating on “misinformation,” said Asp.

“And they’re being funded and egged on by NGOs and people with their own agenda.”

The mining kit offers “the facts,” he said.

“People will realize the impacts that are potential, because it’s in there, if you read it carefully.”

The document is divided into four sections: exploration, development, operation and closure.

Each explains employment and economic opportunities and touches on potential environmental impacts.

“The third-fastest growing labour pool in Canada are First Nations and aboriginal people,” said Patricia Dillon, president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada and a spokeswoman for Teck Cominco Ltd.

“We in the mining industry have to tap into this incredible resource.

“Our success and future depend on it.”

Copies of the information kit are available through the departments and groups that produced it.