The Second Cree Mining Conference was necessary as a follow-up to the 1st Cree Mining Conference, Jim MacLeod, the conference host, said. “We dealt with issues like training, employment, mining and exploration in the trappers territory,” said MacLeod. MacLeod wanted to see a relationship that would benefit both parties. “One of the issues has always been how exploration affected the trappers ability to hunt in the territory for example,” he said. MacLeod admits the game is sometimes scared away by the exploration workers and this doesn’t help the trappers. “We want to ask the trappers when is the good time for them for exploration to be done,” MacLeod. He says that they are asking whether or not airplane surveys or groundwork should be done in the summer fall or winter.
MacLeod feels that the mining industry should make a relationship with the trappers as soon as possible and create a timetable that benefits both. MacLeod says this would help the Cree economy by not scaring the industry out. “We need the money in our economy, that’s a given,” he said. Cree leaders have said much the same quoting high unemployment figures but like MacLeod believe that mining and other resource exploration must take into account Cree needs. MacLeod says that mining companies if they are unsure of whether or not something will become a Native issue will back out of a project. “If we can make a relationship now instead of when it becomes overblown like Burnt Church or Kokomville, then we can do something like Troilus,” said MacLeod. He said that you can see a difference in Mistissini where some Crees work in the mine. “Crees working there now have their own homes, cars and things like that. You can build your family with that. These are not cheap jobs, they are well-paying,” said MacLeod. He said that the jobs are Troilus are blasters, laboratory workers, drivers and drillers. “These are professional jobs. Crees are being used as just labourers like before,” MacLeod said.
The environment in Cree territory isn’t damaged as much as by forestry operations according to MacLeod. MacLeod sees an opportunity to have both the Crees and the industry monitor environmental impacts and mitigation as part of the trapper/Cree/mining industry relationship. “We can work it out together. It’s give and take at times but if all the information is there I can see people being reasonable, especially if there are Cree people working in the environment sector,” he said.
Revenue sharing isn’t something that MacLeod could see a junior or small company being able to afford. Even 2 per cent would be a large chunk of money to a small company MacLeod says. But if Crees could get part of the taxes levied against the company already then it would be possible in that way according to MacLeod. “Let’s take a chunk of tax money and give it to the Crees where they can use it. Taking it from the small companies will just drive them away,” said MacLeod. MacLeod sees the tax revenue sharing as extending to forestry and tourism and other resource exploitation enterprises on the Cree territory.
Conversely MacLeod says that if a Native prospector came to him over a piece of territory he had staked and asked for 2 per cent, he would deal. “Why not, that’s his,” said MacLeod.
The provincial government officials at the meeting said they are in the field of investing in programs and engineering companies. The government is looking for joint ventures between Native and non-Native companies.
The companies themselves are looking at being able to do a project but also at the availabilty of workers in the area they want to develop.
If you’re interested in this type of work then you should be by studying sciences, says MacLeod. Geography, geology, laboratory work, math and chemistry are important.
“You have to read a lot more,” said MacLeod. “The jobs that are perfect for someone who likes the bush are prospecting and fieldwork. In the summer you do a lot of looking because you can see the rock. In winter it’s drilling and linecutting or geophysics. That’s why I like it. It’s flexible and leaves the spring for goose hunt and the fall for moose hunting. It fits that type of schedule. I couldn’t ask for a better schedule.” MacLeod said most of the work in the summer was a seven day on and seven day off schedule allowing plenty of time for fishing trips. “That’s the Troilus schedule and that’s why I think it works for the Crees,” said MacLeod.