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Network closing gap between First Nation businesses and mining

Association of Indigenous Mining Suppliers to help link companies and services
Stacey Vincent Cress and Dawn Madahbee Leach officially announced the creation of the Association of Indigenous Mining Suppliers, a means of better connecting First Nation businesses and mining companies. (Karen McKinley photo)

More mining companies are seeking to do business with First Nation businesses to take care of supplying services.

Waubetek Business Development Corporation in the Whitefish River First Nation is making it easier for those companies to find each other with the announcement of the Association of Indigenous Mining Suppliers, at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) on March 5.

Waubetek general manager Dawn Madahbee Leach and mining project manager Stacey Vincent Cress said the association has been in the works for months to meet the growing demand for more partnerships.

It is a nationwide initiative with dozens of companies already listed in the association and it is seeking out more.

Cress said this announcement was just to let people know the association has been created. It is an initiative of the chiefs within Waubetek.

“We are just starting to ramp up now,” he said. “It's a strategy by the corporation and the government. We are just connecting the dots for it.”

Cress explained every time Indigenous businesses and mining companies go to a convention or forum like PDAC there is always talk about engagement and employment between the two. The association is going to be the conduit in best practices, case studies and resources for First Nations, Métis, Inuit and industry.

“We are a non-partisan resource to go to to ensure those links are connected,” Cress said. “If someone is making an inquiry, they don't want to ruffle anyone's feathers. We would help them connect the dots.”

Leach said there is a real gap in this industry because oftentimes mining companies are working within Indigenous communities and want to procure services and supplies in the community, but have nowhere to go to help find them.

“We are hoping to put together a really good directory of all of the suppliers across Canada who can be available to work with mining companies, or develop partnerships with others that are good suppliers of goods and services,” she said in an interview.

And the demand is definitely there. Leach said they printed membership cards and they are being snatched up very quickly.

“I'm really surprised and it's great to see,” she said.

Leach added that this is also to help mining companies locate legitimate Indigenous partners, noting that there are companies out there falsely claiming First Nation origins. The association will be a trusted source of information for mining companies keen on working with First Nation suppliers and services.

All businesses seeking to be in the directory are vetted and put through a process of verification to show they are a genuinely Indigenous-owned company.

In turn, the association offers other services for First Nation businesses reach out to new clients, develop and grow. Having the association set up by a First Nation financial group like Waubetek will help those businesses in many other ways.

“We can help them with their business plans, help with marketing; we can get capital for equipment they might need,” Leach said.

Currently, the association is still in the growing phase as they set up the database, tool kits for clients and a website, as well as hire an executive director. Leach said there may be a soft launch in the fall, and the official launch is planned for PDAC 2020.

The association's home will be at the Willet Green Miller Centre, located on the grounds of Laurentian University in Sudbury.