Mining supply companies, contractors and Aboriginal communities looking to strike partnership agreements will be in Thunder Bay in late October for the second annual Mining Ready Summit.
Hosting by the Nishnawbe Aski Development Fund (NADF), the Oct. 23-24 event is expected to attract industry and First Nation leaders, along with a slew of Aboriginal and non-Aborginal contractors to the Valhalla Inn.
Brian Davey, NADF's special initiatives advisor, is the intent of the event is pretty straightforward.
“The focus is on taking advantage of the business opportunities and bringing First Nation businesses and suppliers together to see what we can do to make money.”
Last year's event centred around better educating Aboriginal delegates on how the mining cycle and industry works.
This year's agenda has evolved into discovering what tools are available toward building First Nation-owned businesses and reaching joint venture arrangements with outside contractors.
As a social license to operate, more and more companies operating in the Far North and across the region are under contractual obligations to hire First Nations labour and use local suppliers wherever possible.
“I realize there are larger political and environmental issues that need to be dealt with, but that doesn't stop us from preparing and getting people excited about working together and taking advantage of what opportunities there are,” said Davey.
With a solid database of skilled Aboriginal labour and companies at his fingertips, Davey often fields call from companies asking for information and contacts.
“I point them in the right direction.”
The October event is expected to attract aspiring entrepreneurs looking to break into business, and already existing companies looking to network.
At a recent mining show in Timmins, Davey was surprised at how many businesspeople approached his booth asking about First Nation partnerships.
“I said (the Thunder Bay show) is the venue you want to be at to understand the Aboriginal market better and how to get into it.
“Many of these agreements with mineral exploration companies and mining companies, they have (contract) clauses that priority access be given to companies that have established relationships with an Aboriginal entity.”
This year's event includes presentations on the mining sequence, case studies and best practices, and offer industry insight on how to bid on mining contracts.
Among the speakers will be First Nation entrepreneur Dave Tuccaro, president of the Tuccaro Group, who made his fortune running seven oil and gas industrial service companies in northern Alberta.
Newly-elected Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Harvey Yesno will be giving his first speech to the general business community speaking at the awards dinner.
While conflict between industry and First Nations in Northern Ontario grabs the headlines, Davey said in terms of outcomes from the event, “hopefully people will take away an opportunity to work together and build companies, joint ventures, and business arrangements that allow them to take advantage of the opportunities that are there now, or coming downstream.”