At this year’s Association for Mineral Exploration (AME) Roundup conference in Vancouver, young people from three northwestern First Nations communities got a chance to learn and ask questions about the mining industry directly from key players.
Organized by the Tahltan Central Government (TCG) staff, more than 40 youth from the Tahltan, Kaska, and Tlingit Nations learned about the mineral exploration and mining industries over two days. They met and networked with active mining proponents, and observed various meetings and panel discussions involving their leadership and staff.
“They can learn not just about mining opportunities but about other economic opportunities that are present in the 3Nation territories,” says TCG president Chad Norman Day. The 3Nations initiative between the Tahltan, Kaska and Tlingit Nations won the BC Premier’s Award for Innovation last November.
Participants visited the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and received a guided tour, attended receptions with representatives and cabinet ministers from the province, and visited popular attractions like FlyOver Canada, among others. B.C. Premier John Horgan also met with the youth and others during the Tahltan Nation Reception held during Roundup each year.
Day says TCG has worked to increase the involvement of youth in events like AME Roundup to inspire them to pursue job opportunities available within their own territory. In 2018, eleven Tahltan youth attended the AME Roundup, and for the first time, youth from Kaska and Tlingit Nations were brought this year.
“Those opportunities can provide for them long-term jobs and long-term opportunities not only just for themselves, but their children and their grandchildren,” Day says.
The Tahltan territory is home to 70 per cent of B.C.’s resource-rich Golden Triangle, three of the province’s 19 mines, and is the location of 25 per cent of B.C.’s exploration activities. In 2018, exploration expenditures on projects was estimated at over $80 million, with production values for active mines estimated at over $334 million.
“The more that the future generations understand those opportunities, the more capacity that we can create not only within the Tahltan Nation, but throughout Northern British Columbia with our Kaska, Tlingit and Nisga’a neighbours,” said Day.
Tahltan Nation youth representative Kyle Risby, 25, says speaking with corporate organizations responsible for mining exploration and asking them questions directly was a meaningful experience.
One panel hosted a conversation about incorporating traditional First Nations knowledge from the early engagement stages of a project through to the end, creating a more collaborative and informative process to ensure development is safe and respectful with minimal damage to the environment.
“That was one of my biggest takeaways was that panel. Incorporating Western and Indigenous culture in that realm is fairly difficult or overlooked,” Risby says, who is now pursuing a law degree to work on the legal side of the mining industry. “It was refreshing to see the partnership and collaboration where we’re a priority…to see that power balance restored.”
It also gave the group a chance to meet other Tahltan, Kaska and Tlingit youth and share experiences.
“Being born in Whitehorse and living in the Yukon, and having family ties in the Kaska Nation, and I worked with Tlingits in Whitehorse…it shows how deep the histories are and how the colonial borders don’t really match the true width or depth to how our Nations work together,” Risby says.