Evidence of meeting #31 for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was companies.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Paul Hébert  Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada
  • Ryan Montpellier  Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council
  • Philip Bousquet  Senior Program Director, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada
  • Scott Cavan  Program Director, Aboriginal Affairs, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Committee, I'm going to call the 31st meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to order.

Of course, committee members, you'll know that we're continuing our study on land use and sustainable economic development.

Today we have representatives from three different organizations. We have representatives here from the Mining Association of Canada, the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada.

We are going to hear first from Paul, who is with the Mining Association of Canada.

We're going to hear an opening submission from you, and then we'll go to each one of you, respectively, for your opening statements. After that we will then go into rounds of questioning.

The hope is to be completed by 5 o'clock. At 5 o'clock we will be moving into committee business, colleagues, for half an hour. We have some things that need to be solidified for upcoming meetings and for other purposes.

I'll turn it over to you, Paul. Thanks so much for being here. We look forward to your testimony.

3:35 p.m.

Paul Hébert Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, committee members.

As the chair mentioned, my name is Paul Hébert. I'm the vice-president, government relations, with the Mining Association of Canada. I bring regards from my president, Pierre Gratton, who was invited to appear but had to be in London at meetings today.

To get things started, I'd like to begin by telling you a little bit about the Mining Association of Canada. We are the national voice of the mining industry in Canada. We represent some 35 members active in the full range of commodities, from iron ore to gold, diamonds, oil sands, steel making, coal, base metals, and uranium. We also have some 50 associate members active in engineering, environment, and finance. Our members are engaged in exploration, mining, smelting, semi-fabrication, and supply in the mining sector.

I have a few words about the industry's domestic contribution. The mining industry is one of the engines of Canada's economy, with some 306,000 employees. Average weekly wages are in the neighbourhood of $1,600, which is 30% to 60% above that of other sectors.

The Canadian mining sector includes over 220 producing mines as well as 33 smelters and refineries. In 2010 the sector paid $8.4 billion in taxes and royalties to governments. To give you some perspective, that's about the equivalent of the taxes paid by one million Canadians.

On average, the sector invests about $20 billion in capital investment annually, and the trend we've been seeing over the last few years and that we're forecasting in years to come is substantially higher than that.

We are the largest private sector employer of aboriginal Canadians, and I'll have a little bit more to say on that.

We are also a core supplier to the clean technology sector in Canada.

In 2010, we contributed $36 billion to Canada's GDP.

Talking about capital investment, over the next five years we have tabulated that industry plans to invest some $140 billion in new projects and in project expansions across the country from coast to coast to coast. So the industry is enjoying very healthy times, driven in large part by demand from China. Prices are quite buoyant. Although access to capital is sometimes challenging, the need for the raw materials is there.

This translates into a huge opportunity for Canadians in general and for aboriginal people in particular. The human resources challenge is one of the key challenges facing the mining industry in Canada to take advantage of this opportunity before us. We know that the mining and exploration sector will need over 110,000 new workers by 2021, so that equates to roughly 50% of the workforce turning over in less than 10 years.

We need all kinds of workers, from physical scientists and geoscientists to miners, tradespeople, people in finance, in health care, and support staff. There is really quite a broad range of opportunities.

Aboriginal people have quite a strong history of mining and tend to be ideally located to take advantage of rewarding careers in mining. Many communities are located in very close proximity to mining projects, and mining companies are doing an increasingly good job of engaging with those communities and reaching agreements with communities to make sure those economic benefits do accrue to the broader group.

Some aboriginal mining statistics: We are the largest private sector employer. Aboriginal workers accounted for about 7.5% of the mining workforce in 2006, the most recent census data we have, and we strongly suspect that number is higher now. That 7.5% translates into roughly double what the aboriginal population constitutes of the total workforce. So it's a success, but it's also an opportunity when you consider how close we are to those communities. We are doing a good job and need to continue doing an even better job of engaging with those aboriginal groups. That 7.5% also marks a doubling in a period of 10 years.

In 1996, only about 3.6% of the workforce came from the aboriginal community. In 2006, it was 7.5%, of which 14% are women. That equates to about 4,500 aboriginal people working in the mining industry in 2006. One challenge that exists in aboriginal engagement is the positions that those aboriginal people hold. Less than one percent of aboriginal people are in supervisory or management positions. They tend to be in entry-level positions. The challenge is to deliver training and establish career paths that will allow people to access the full range and strata of positions in the mining industry.

Concerning impact benefit agreements, in the deck that was sent to you, it says that there are over 170 agreements. In fact, the latest tabulation we've got is that there are 183 impact benefit and other agreements in place between mining companies and aboriginal communities across the country. In the deck you’ll see a list of a few notable agreements, from the Raglan Mine–Makivik agreement in 1995, to some of the more recent impact benefit agreements between Copper Mountain and the Upper Similkameen, and Imperial Metals’ Huckleberry Mine and the Williams Lake band. These have evolved into quite sophisticated agreements with the communities that include employment agreements, training and development, contracting, environmental land use...really quite broad and sophisticated agreements in their construction and in their administration.

We commend the government for some strong actions that have helped in the mining industry's engagement with the aboriginal community. One program is the aboriginal skills and employment partnership program, or ASEP, which happens to be sunsetting in about three or four days. We do know there are other funds through the strategic partnership initiative and the skills partnership fund that are going to fund those kinds of partnerships. I'll tell you a little bit more in the next slide.

We are also grateful for the support of the sector council program. Ryan Montpellier's organization, the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, has done and continues to do a lot of good work in the area of labour market intelligence and credentialling, which is very important in a time of pretty dire recruiting needs in the sector.

The ASEP program has gone to fund aboriginal mine training organizations across the country, and these are true public-private partnerships. Government funding has leveraged millions of dollars from the private sector, from provincial governments, and from aboriginal communities. From 2008 to 2012, over 3,000 aboriginal people were trained as a result of this program and 1,600 were placed in mining-related jobs through mining training organization programs. These are programs that deliver pre-employment and employment training, ranging from pre-screening to life skills to job search skills, some very job-specific technical training, mentoring, and on-the-job follow-up and coaching.

Mining ASEP programs really have been the highlight of the ASEP. They have been very successful, from B.C. all the way out to Voisey's Bay, to diamond mines in Ontario, and in the far north as well.

Now I'd like to turn the mike over to Ryan Montpellier. He'll tell you a little bit about the tools and resources they provide to the mining industry in order to diversify their workforces.

3:40 p.m.

Ryan Montpellier Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Thank you very much for the invitation, and good afternoon to all.

My name is Ryan Montpellier, and I'm the executive director at the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, also known as MiHR.

MiHR is an independent, non-profit corporation. We are a public-private partnership between the federal government and the mining sector, funded in large part by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada through the sector council program. Our mandate is to identify and address the human resources and labour market challenges facing the minerals and metals sector in Canada.

Part of that strategy, or part of our role, is to identify the labour market trends and provide industry with the labour market intelligence it requires to facilitate decision-making—really to ensure that we have the right people with the right skills at the right time.

As Paul indicated earlier, we are faced with a very significant skills shortage. Over the course of the next decade or so, we forecast a need to recruit about 11,000 people per year. I would note that it is based on a relatively conservative growth scenario. If we continue the trend of the growth that we've seen over the past two years, that number would quickly balloon.

The solution to the skills shortage is not an easy one. The mining industry is doing a lot of work to make better use of all potential sources of supply, to increase productivity, and to increase the use of technology. Obviously, one of the key strategies that the mining sector is pursuing is attracting, recruiting, developing, and retaining aboriginal people in Canada.

To achieve this, there are a number of tools that industry has developed through MiHR and in partnership with a number of aboriginal organizations. I'll speak to a few of those very briefly, but if you do have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them in more detail.

On the first slide you see are really tools for employers. The first one I'll mention is called “Mining for Diversity”. It's an employer's guide to attract, recruit, and retain a diverse workforce. Some companies are doing a truly remarkable job at attracting certain under-represented groups, and others are not. The goal of this document, or this tool, was to help identify best practices, document the reasons for those best practices, and share them with other mining companies.

We've seen some tremendous results as a result of this tool. The other resource that I'll mention for employers is a tool called “Mastering Aboriginal Inclusion in Mining”. This is a collection of five modules that help train and develop local mine managers to become employers of choice for aboriginal talent. The tool really helps employers move from a culture of exclusion to a culture of inclusion. Making that jump is not an insignificant amount of work, and there are some legacy issues that exist, but we are seeing companies make a commitment to diversity and implement some of those resources.

The other tools I will mention on the following slide are really tools for aboriginal people and for communities as a whole. The first tool is a product called “Mining Industry Human Resources Guide for Aboriginal Communities”. The guide walks through all phases of the mining cycle, from mineral exploration to mine closure and mine reclamation, and provides the types of careers, the types of skills required at each phase of the mining cycle, and it provides a number of links to educational institutions, to a variety of essential skills that are required. It really provides general information on where individuals can find employment and how to obtain employment at various phases through the mining sector.

The one program that I think has had the most benefit—or certainly the most impact—is a tool called “Mining Essentials”. This tool was developed to increase the involvement and engagement of aboriginal people by providing work readiness and essential skills needed to gain employment in the mining sector.

Now, this was a joint venture between the mining industry and the Assembly of First Nations, but it also included participation from the Métis National Council and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, ITK. What is innovative about this program is that the content is defined by the mining industry based on national occupational standards and essential skills profiles, but how it is delivered is based on traditional aboriginal culture.

It really takes a different, more holistic approach to education based on a traditional learning wheel. Through this program we engage elders, we engage the community, we engage mining companies, and we really try to provide an enriched learning experience for young aboriginal people.

This program is relatively new. It was launched in 2011. We've had a number of sites from coast to coast implement this mining essentials program, including Northwest Community College in northern British Columbia, Northern College in northern Ontario, the Anishinabek Training and Employment Services in Thunder Bay, as well as a handful of other sites currently being launched throughout Quebec.

It is a 12-week program. We've seen a number of successes out of this program, and we do expect hundreds of employees, young aboriginal people, will make their way into the mining sector through this program.

Finally, I'll end with a link. There is a website called www.aboriginalmining.ca. This website has a number of resources and tools for both employers and aboriginal communities to help bridge that gap and to foster this culture of inclusion.

I'll end there. Thank you very much for your time.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate that testimony.

We'll turn to Mr. Bousquet.

You have approximately 10 minutes for your opening statement.

3:50 p.m.

Philip Bousquet Senior Program Director, Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada

Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and committee members.

My name is Philip Bousquet. I am senior program director with the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. I am here with Scott Cavan, the PDAC's program director for aboriginal affairs.

I also bring greetings from Glenn Nolan, incoming PDAC president, whom many of you know.

Thank you for the invitation to appear before this committee and to offer our comments on land use and sustainable development. Our association, with close to 9,000 members, individual and corporate, exists to protect and promote mineral exploration and to ensure a robust mining industry in Canada. We encourage the highest standards of technical, environmental, safety, and social practices in Canada and internationally.

As members of this committee will know, the PDAC organizes and hosts an annual convention that is the world's premier mineral exploration and development conference. Earlier this month, more than 30,000 people from 120 countries came to the PDAC convention in Toronto to seek projects and investors and to learn about exploration techniques, including environmental stewardship, geophysics, land management, social engagement, and aboriginal affairs.

Over the past seven years, the PDAC convention has offered an aboriginal program that has now grown into two full-day sessions of presentations and discussions, as well as a course on aboriginal awareness and the presentation of our annual Skookum Jim Award to honour and recognize exceptional achievement by an aboriginal individual or by an aboriginal-run business in the mining industry.

The Skookum Jim Award, the awareness training, and the aboriginal program are outcomes of the PDAC's efforts to promote greater participation by aboriginal people in the mineral industry and to foster better understanding between communities and companies. We work closely with the other presenters who are here today, the Mining Association of Canada and the Mining Industry Human Resources Council, as well as many others, including the Assembly of First Nations, with which we have a memorandum of understanding.

The mining industry and the mineral exploration sector in particular are familiar with the matters being studied by this committee, and our ongoing work in this area is directly related to our membership. Land use and sustainable development are fundamental to the practice of mineral exploration. The PDAC's member companies operate in remote areas of Canada. These companies are primarily small and medium-sized enterprises that rely on equity financing to support early stage, higher-risk exploration activities. Many of the operations are small scale, with perhaps half a dozen full-time employees and a greater number of seasonal staff performing a variety of tasks.

Across Canada, mineral exploration and mining is the lifeblood of many small, rural communities. Throughout the economic turmoil of the past few years, these companies have continued to invest in Canadian projects, creating jobs and new businesses that support the industry. Many of these businesses are aboriginal owned and operated, leading to new opportunities throughout the country. Our mining industry is a story of success and a fundamental driver of Canada's economy. As you heard earlier, it is also the largest private sector employer of aboriginal Canadians. From 1996 to 2006, the mining sector saw a 43% increase in the aboriginal workforce, growing to 7.5% of the entire labour force.

Mineral exploration is the essential first step in the mining cycle, and Canada has a number of features that attract investment. We have good geology and good information available through public geoscience, we have a workforce with access to a number of training initiatives, and we have a competitive tax system.

In 2011, exploration expenditures in Canada equalled $3.9 billion, a significant increase over the $2.8 billion that was invested here in 2010. In other words, there is great and growing potential. In order to maintain this success, several actions should be taken, the first two of which were part of our pre-budget submission.

As an organization that represents mineral exploration companies, the PDAC has recommended the continuation of the mineral exploration tax credit. The METC and flow-through share financing continue to serve a critical role as they allow junior companies to raise needed capital, keep investment in Canada, and sustain grassroots exploration activity in remote and northern regions where transportation and field camp costs are high.

The PDAC also supports continued investment in public geoscience. The geo-mapping for energy and minerals program and the targeted geoscience initiative have increased the technical knowledge of our natural resources, provided field training for geology students, and encouraged private sector investment.

The first recommendation encourages the raising of capital; the second helps to identify areas within Canada for exploration. In order to proceed with exploration, many other factors need to be considered. A company needs professionally trained people, good community relations, access to land for exploration, and clear, consistent regulations.

The PDAC has worked to develop programs and recommendations that we believe can assist. I'll briefly mention a few of these.

e3 Plus, a framework for responsible exploration, was launched by PDAC in 2009 to help exploration companies improve their social, environmental, and health and safety performance, and to comprehensively integrate these three aspects into their exploration programs. The program is the first of its kind, a Canadian innovation that is accessible worldwide.

PDAC Mining Matters is a charitable organization dedicated to bringing Canada's geology and mineral resources to students, educators, and the general public. The organization provides current information about rocks, minerals, metals, and mining, and offers exceptional educational resources that meet provincial curriculum expectations. Mining Matters has reached an estimated 450,000 teachers, students, and members of the general public since its inception in 1994. Since 2003, the Mining Matters aboriginal outreach program has delivered workshops to almost 400 teachers in aboriginal communities, who oversee the education of an estimated 5,400 students.

As to land use and public policy, PDAC participated in the northern regulatory improvement initiative and has developed a number of joint submissions with the Mining Association of Canada and the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. PDAC supports the implementation of government resource revenue-sharing that would form a basis for aboriginal communities to build towards economic self-sufficiency and encourage greater participation in the mineral industry.

Working with our members, we have advocated for clarity and consistency with respect to land access and permitting regulations, and we have formalized our thoughts through a position statement on land-use planning and land access that has formed the basis of our submissions to the federal, provincial, and territorial governments.

PDAC maintains that mineral exploration, mine development, and mining operations can be conducted in keeping with the principles of sustainable development and in harmony with the environmental, social, and economic priorities of aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians. In our position statement, we maintain that the overarching goal of public policy and legislation for land-use planning and land access should be the development and implementation of a transparent and balanced process that applies impartial criteria appropriately, reconciles competing priorities fairly, and gives proper weight to the public interest. Achieving these objectives requires a process based on broad, inclusive representation across society that promotes the involvement of aboriginal peoples, local communities, interest groups, the exploration and mining sector itself, and the public at large.

In conclusion, I would like to thank this committee for giving us an opportunity to meet with you today. Scott and I would be happy to answer your questions.

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you for your opening statements.

We will now begin with our rounds of questioning, starting with Ms. Duncan.

March 27th, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Thank you, and my thanks to the witnesses for their presentations and written materials.

I've noted your honesty in stating that, despite your considerable efforts to employ aboriginal peoples in your sector, only 1% of aboriginal peoples are in management a decade later. What investment does your sector put into educating aboriginals in management, engineering, geology, environmental sciences, and reclamation?

I'm raising reclamation because we had a previous witness from ECO Canada who shared some of the market analyses. By the way, thanks for your recommendation on the market analyses. Some of the most valuable work in this area is done by the federal environmental sector, which does market analyses and studies environmental employment. I know from being on that board that the highest potential employment for the future is in reclamation of contaminated sites, and that's why I'm asking about the investment in training local people in reclamation.

I also notice that you recommended a continuation of the ASEP program. We discovered today that the program is ending, and I'd like to hear whether you think that's worthwhile.

I also want to ask about the benefit agreements. I'm aware that there are a lot of benefit agreements between various mining corporations and aboriginal communities, but a concern is starting to be raised about what happens when one of the parties, the corporations, reneges on those agreements. There is currently one lawsuit before the courts between the Athabasca Chipewyan and one of the corporations in the oil sands, which is purportedly reneging on the benefit agreement. It's not clear whether there's consideration or whether those terms are enforceable. Do you think that instead, or in tandem, the government should be imposing those terms as a condition of approvals?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

To start with the investment in education and training, it's not something we've quantified yet, but it's absolutely a top priority for mining companies because of the really dramatic labour shortage. They're investing more in recruitment, but they're investing more than ever before in retention. That means developing the existing workforce. The investment is at levels that have never been seen before. They frankly have no choice. The future of the mining companies relies on their ability to develop and retain their current workforce, notably the aboriginal community.

4 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

In what category...?

4 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

It is really across the entire spectrum of occupations.

There are definitely some examples of partnerships that are very effective. In the Raglan project in northern Quebec, in Ungava Bay, they're having success developing their workforce and having aboriginal people access higher-level jobs. In B.C. there are some successes as well.

They're also fraught with challenges. We're dealing with some fairly serious socio-economic challenges. Essential baseline skills levels within the aboriginal community are barriers to delivering the training needed for them to access those higher-level jobs. That relates back to the next item you mentioned, the ASEPs.

I don't have first-hand knowledge of ASEPs in other sectors, but I'm quite familiar with ASEPs in mining. I know they have been very successful in the amount of money they've been able to leverage from the private sector and in the quantity of people they've been able to train and get into jobs. They have been hugely successful: the B.C. Aboriginal Mine Training Association, the mine training organizations in all three territories, and mine training organizations with De Beers in Attawapiskat and Voisey’s Bay. It has been said to me by people at HRSDC that the mining ASEP is really the poster child or the exemplary ASEP program. Having something in place to replace that ASEP program is critical in helping promote aboriginal participation in mining.

On IBAs and what happens if one party reneges, most IBAs include quite detailed conflict resolution mechanisms and provisions. I'm not familiar with the lawsuit you're talking about, but I would say the vast majority of IBAs are functioning quite well and yield very positive results for both parties.

4 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

One of the comments made recently—I've been in some discussions in Alberta—by the aboriginal community, particularly dealing with the oil sands mining sector, is that they would prefer to have a good portion of the training delivered in the community. Then those who are interested in getting into the sector wouldn't have to spend all that time out of their community. I'm wondering how much attention you're giving to the potential for actually delivering some of the training in the community.

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, Mining Industry Human Resources Council

Ryan Montpellier

That's certainly the feedback we've been receiving as well. It poses a challenge when you move people to a central location for training and most of the post-secondary institutions in Canada are in larger urban centres. However, over the last few years we have seen an increase in satellite training centres, mobile training centres, and simulators. We can actually develop and implement simulators within the communities.

Part of the program I highlighted earlier under “Mining Essentials” really does focus on bringing the training into the community, bringing the mining companies into the community, and focusing not just on the trainee but on the community as a whole. It's something that is evolving.

If I can quickly address your last question on the mining sector's investment in training and education, there has really been a shift in the area of workforce planning in the mining sector. I've been involved in this industry for almost 10 years, and earlier on, mining workforce planning lasted a quarter or six months. Now we're seeing companies really taking a much more strategic view toward workforce planning, investing in training and education of their workforce for two, five, and ten years to coincide with their mining plans. So there has been a shift, and companies are now taking a much more strategic view toward workforce planning.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Chris Warkentin

Thank you very much.

I'm going to turn to Mr. Wilks for seven minutes.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thanks, gentlemen, for being here today.

I come from a part of the world that is fairly rich in resources, with Teck Resources and five coal mines, so I'm quite familiar with the mining industry.

Having said that, given the proximity of many aboriginal communities to mining and exploration and development across Canada, what are the potential opportunities for mining activities to take place on first nations reserves, and what are the potential benefits for aboriginal communities from mining on reserve? As I understand it, about 1,200 aboriginal communities are located within 200 kilometres of producing mines or potential producing mines.

4:05 p.m.

Vice-President, Government Relations, Mining Association of Canada

Paul Hébert

On-reserve mining traditionally has been a bit of a black box, quite frankly. Mining companies have been in the dark about what's required and what the processes are, and that's why we were heartened to learn that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has recently embarked on a process to modernize on-reserve mining regulations. They had a kick-off, a scoping-out meeting, just a couple of weeks ago in Toronto.

Definitely one would expect substantial potential, depending on the reserve. Reserves tend to be communities, and of course you won't have a mine in a community, but on neighbouring lands the potential is there.

What's needed, however, is certainty and clarity of process and access so that companies, and first and foremost the people doing the exploration, know what the rules of the game are and how to get access and how to partner with the communities to identify and define those resources.