In October 2019, Qalipu First Nation was approached by Marathon Gold, a gold resource development company focused on a gold reserve located in our territory in central Newfoundland. Representatives from the company expressed a desire to share plans and consult with our membership on project development.
To best serve our members interests – primarily to ensure environmental stewardship is a top priority for our Nation on all major development projects happening within our territory, and also to access economic opportunities (employment, education and training, procurement and contracting) for our members and communities—the Band put in place a committee to work with Marathon Gold on these topics and the development of a Socio-Economic Agreement (SEA).
In September 2020 and again in January 2021 the Band hosted virtual community engagement sessions in partnership with Marathon Gold to provide in depth project details, create an opportunity to ask questions, as well as to share the drafts of the SEA and invite feedback before moving forward. An additional engagement session was also held in January 2021 with youth representatives to gather their unique perspectives, and written submissions were accepted to ensure those who could not attend virtual sessions could still contribute their feedback.
Following is a summary of what we heard.
September 17, 2020 Virtual Community Consultation
We had 20 participants including two staff from Marathon Gold and two Ward Councilors from QFN. The conversation was primarily focused on questions posed to the team from Marathon Gold related to the development. Question posed included questions related to:
- Understanding the Environmental Impact Assessment process as it relates to current and future planned developments.
- Reclamation including revegetation plans and how QFN can play a role.
- Questions head waters and water sheds in the area.
- Caribou migration and impacts
- Questions also arose around the process to develop and roll out the SEA. There was some question as to the timing of the signing preceding the release of the Environmental Impact Study (EIS)..
January 11, 2021 Qalipu Youth Network
We had 12 participants in this session which was targeted towards members of the Qalipu Youth Network. In this session, the participants asked about the reclamation plans and expressed interest in ensuring that QFN us engaged and that the reclamation plan has long -term commitment to environmental monitoring beyond the reclamation stage. There were questions about the opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship and a desire to see Qalipu member-owned businesses given support in developing procurement opportunities. There were calls for aggressive targets for diversity / employment / procurement.
January 25, 2021, Virtual Community Consultation (part 2)
There were 28 participants present for this session including two Ward Councillors. The discussions focused on merits of the contents of the SEA. While it was generally agreed that the SEA was a good starting place for our negotiations with Marathon Gold, some felt that the SEA or subsequent agreements should have:
- indigenous procurement
- employment targets
- community investment funds in the way of monies for cultural programming, scholarships, and other member-focused initiatives. This was discussed with Marathon Gold and added to the draft SEA.
- Procurement procedures have key performance indicators which encourage suppliers and contractors to engage local, indigenous-owned small businesses.
- Youth engagement to support training and mentorship opportunities.
The issue of caribou migration was brought up as a concern around the impacts of the project and the feedback was that while developing stewardship policies, the Environmental Stewardship Committee (ESC) should use the EIS documents to recommend and encourage best practices in relation to the environment.
Feedback gathered through written submissions was predominantly SEA-specific in nature with recommendations that hard targets are set in procurement, employment, and the active engagement of the ESC. There were some concerns expressed that this SEA does not attach any financial obligations in Marathon Gold for the costs of engagement and environmental committees. There was also a call for the addition of a targeted Supplier development sessions with Indigenous suppliers as a means of supporting member-0wned businesses in looking for upcoming procurement opportunities and help in how to prepare bids.
One member taking a more wholistic, multi-generational view. While he stated that he “has not formulated an opinion on whether or not (he) support the mining project” and did recognize the positive economic impacts this project will have on Central Newfoundland, he was cautious to remind QFN of the long-term impacts of development in the Natural Resource Sector and the need to keep environmental stewardship and these lasting effects in front of us as we continue to talk to resource development proponents now and in the future.
The input from membership has been shared with Marathon Gold and there is agreement that as discussions proceeds around each aspect of this SEA that future agreements will set measurable goals, and targets for employment, training, procurement, and environmental stewardship.