A commitment to strengthened relationships

Three tips for Indigenous participation in mining: Lessons learned from PDAC

The mining industry supports over 700,000 people in direct and indirect employment and contributes $106 billion to Canada’s GDP every year. Indigenous Peoples make up 12% of the mining and minerals labour force. (Source: PDAC.) The voice that leads the mineral exploration and development community is the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC). Annually, PDAC hosts industry leaders, companies, Indigenous Peoples and mining sector employees in Toronto at the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention. 

This year, the Creative Fire team (part of Des Nedhe Group of companies) attended a PDAC program that focused on: 

  • Indigenous partnerships and participation  
  • Economic Reconciliation pathways 
  • Reimagining equity participation models  
  • Navigating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People  

This Indigenous program is important to advance businesses on the path to truth and Reconciliation. 

At PDAC, we listened to Indigenous leaders including Dawn Madahbee Leach of the National Indigenous Economic Development Board and President Chad Day of the Tahltan Central Government. We also heard from industry allies, including Angela Bigg of Diavik Diamond Mins Inc – Rio Tinto and Abraham Drost from Clear Air Metals, as they shared their insights on how mining companies can be a part of the important Reconciliation work that is happening across all industries in Turtle Island and Canada. These are our three takeaways from the PDAC 2022 convention: 

#1 Transparent and meaningful relationships are fundamental to economic Reconciliation  

Mark Podlasly, Director of Economic Policy and Initiatives at the First Nations Major Projects Coalition explained how companies can achieve consent from Indigenous communities. It’s simple: “Relationships, relationships, relationships.”  

Panelists emphasized the need to establish and maintain transparent and meaningful relationships with Indigenous Nations when seeking current or future economic partnerships. To establish and maintain a healthy relationship with Indigenous Nations, mining companies must invest time to learn about Indigenous cultures, land rights and community values.  


  • Learn the true history of the Nation you want to engage with 
  • Take time to speak with Elders and listen to their stories  
  • Ask Chief and Council about their political priorities 


  • Assume you know the Nation’s economic priorities  
  • Speak on behalf of a Nation or as though the Nation belongs to the company 
#2 Create and maintain meaningful job opportunities for Indigenous Peoples  

“Indigenous people demand more meaningful jobs in the mining industry,” remarked one audience member. “We want career opportunities beyond service jobs.” Even though resource development offers Indigenous Peoples revenue-sharing opportunities and economic development through employment, there is always room to push the dial. To be better. Angela Bigg and Winter Bailey (Communities & Social Performance, Minerals, Rio Tinto) shared an example of building meaningful employment for Indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories.  

The Diavik Diamond Mine began operations in 1999 and entered into a series of participation agreements with five Indigenous groups. (Source: International Council on Mining and Metals – Diavik Mine: Establishing and delivering on effective participation agreements.) In addition to providing over 100 apprenticeships, Diavik created an Indigenous leadership development program for those seeking management careers. These types of programs are key to maintaining strong relationships with Indigenous Nations and walking the path to Reconciliation.  

#3 Increase participation of Indigenous businesses and focus on Indigenous procurement  

At Creative Fire, we provide guidance to our clients who want to create procurement opportunities for Indigenous businesses through our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) practice. RAPs are designed to be tactical plans that address Reconciliation in all aspects of a company’s operations – internal and external. Melanie J. Campbell, Director of Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan Secretariat at Natural Resources Canada, highlighted the importance of creating tactical tools like procurement checklists for both industry and Indigenous Nations to use when seeking purchasing opportunities – the kind of checklists you find in a RAP. 

Here are our suggestions to increase Indigenous participation in procurement:  

  • Host workshops and give information on your company’s procurement process 
  • Shorten payment terms for Indigenous businesses 
  • Set external Indigenous procurement targets in a Reconciliation Action Plan  
  • Create an Indigenous vendor database  

The journey to building a more inclusive world is ongoing. Wherever you are on your reconciliation journey, our team is here to help. Learn about RAPs.  

Thank you PDAC organizers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous panelists and the land of Turtle Island for hosting us at the 2022 Conference. We can’t wait to see what you have lined up for 2023.

Learn. Commit. Act.

Reconciliation Action Plans