More opportunities to come for Indigenous workers at NWT’s mines

Bayha pictured in front of one of the machines he operates at Nechalacho. (Photo by Bailey Moreton/MyTrueNorthNow.com.)
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Signing contracts with mining companies can help Indigenous communities have more residents working in the industry, according to workers.

Cheetah Resources, which is opening the Nechalcho rare earth resources mine, signed a contract worth up to $8.7 million with the Det’on Cho Corporation and Nahanni Construction.

The Det’on Cho Corporation, which is owned by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, signed a partnership deal with Nahanni Construction. Workers from the construction company travelled to Nechalacho by the end of March, some of whom will stay to work on mining operations.

There’s around 100 employees at the mine, 80 per cent of whom are Indigenous, according to David Connelly, vice-president of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at Cheetah Resources.

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“We’re the first, as we know it, miners on our own traditional lands of any sort of magnitude and I think that’s obviously precedent setting,” said Paul Gruner, Chief Executive Officer of Det’On Cho Corporation.

Kyle Bayha, an operator at the mine who is originally from Délı̨nę, said it was the first worksite he has worked on where the majority of the workers have been Indigenous. This is rare among mine sites because not many Indigenous people have the training or work experience, says Bayha.

Bayha did courses in heavy equipment operation and underground mining at Aurora College. Bayha says he hopes with other mines set to need workers for remediation processes, like Giant Mine, that he’ll see more Indigenous people working at the mines.

“It feels great to work with my brothers,” he said. “All of us come here and work as a community and just get it done. I think it’s unreal the teamwork I’ve seen.”

Gruner said as more contracts with mines are signed, it will provide more Indigenous NWT residents and Indigenous government-owned corporations experience and training opportunities to work on future remediation projects, like Giant Mine.

“It can be a bit challenging to source enough folks at a local level,” he said. But Gruner added there’s been a lot of desire from the mines and various levels of government to work with Indigenous owned corporations like Det’On Cho, and that contracts like these provide more opportunities for training and experience.

Gruner said Det’On Cho is currently going through the request for proposal process for the Snap Lake mine remediation project. That mine was last active in 2015. Gruner said they are also planning to work with Giant Mine on its remediation project.

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