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Rio Tinto commits $1M to Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Minerals Development

Waubetek-led initiative aims to increase opportunities for Indigenous participation in mining
(Supplied photo/Rio Tinto)

Global mining giant Rio Tinto has committed $1 million over five years to become a founding partner in the Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Minerals Development being established in Northern Ontario.

The centre is an initiative of the Waubetek Business Development Corp., an Indigenous-led economic development organization based on the Whitefish River First Nation that provides business financing and economic development services to First Nations and Aboriginal businesses located throughout northeastern Ontario.

It’s being designed as a centre of knowledge and expertise for Indigenous communities, industry and governments. It will connect stakeholders to develop partnerships and offer access to information, referral services and training tools around Indigenous participation in mineral development.

Initiatives will include developing ‘Mining 101’ training to support Indigenous communities in developing capacity to understand the mineral resources present in their traditional territories and how to engage fully with the mining industry.

In addition to the financial contribution, Rio Tinto said it’s committed to lending its technical expertise to the venture.

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“Our partnership aims to grow the opportunity for Indigenous communities to participate in a meaningful way in the benefits that can come from responsible mineral development,” said Simone Niven, Rio Tinto’s group executive of corporate relations, in a Nov. 27 news release announcing the partnership.

“North America can provide many of the essential materials for the transition to renewable energy, such as copper, rhenium and cobalt. Indigenous communities will be able to better understand the mineral resources in their traditional lands and make informed decisions about whether to develop them.”

The aim is for the centre to expand its focus from Ontario to work across North America, by developing networks in British Columbia, Québec and Arizona.

“We are pleased that a leading resources company supports our goal that Indigenous people should have the tools to understand their mineral resources and the industry, so that any development brings long-term benefits,” said Dawn Madahbee Leach, Waubetek’s general manager.

“This can play an important role towards economic reconciliation and inclusive growth through developing greater control over our lands and resources, as well as creating wealth and well-being in communities.”

Rio Tinto is an Anglo-Australian mining company with interests in aluminum, copper, diamonds, gold, industrial minerals (borates, titanium dioxide and salt), iron ore, and uranium.

The company operates in 35 countries across six continents around the world, employing 47,000 people.

In Canada, Rio Tinto headquarters its aluminum business in Montréal. It additionally operates the Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories; runs an iron ore mine, concentrating and pelletizing plant in Newfoundland along with port facilities in Québec; and is mining ilmenite (titanium-iron oxide) in Québec.