There are growth spurts and then there are unreal growth spurts but that is what Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) has achieved. Back in the mid 1990s the yearly conference was hosted entirely in one hotel and had perhaps 5,000 participants. This year, the 2012 conference saw 30,000 attendees creating what was one-of-the-first-but-not-last human traffic jams a Canadian conference has ever experienced.

It took two days just to make the rounds of exhibitors stopping at only a few to understand what’s underground is big money as well as more possibilities and opportunities than we can imagine. Opportunities for any downtown hotel though were non-existent because of the influx of anyone wanting to be part of the PDAC experience. The boost to the Toronto’s economy must have been amazing. Last year, the annual convention added an estimated $72 million to the economy.

The promises and chances to be a part of the next big boom whether it’s gold, silver, steel or other less desired minerals, such as uranium, draws a crowd. You have the people who have taken a gamble on finding and developing a mine, investors looking to be a part of the opportunity and governments looking for new revenues and employment. The various levels of governments in Canada saw $8.4 billion in royalties and taxes in 2010 alone.

And yes, Crees were on hand as were many other Aboriginal Peoples. Notable Crees, for example such as Jim MacLeod of the Cree Mineral Board, attended the conference. MacLeod was one of the figures who played a part in creating the Trollius Mine agreement between Inmet and the Mistissini First Nation. Even though it was signed in the early 1990s, it is still considered a model for many agreements today.

MacLeod has a long history in the mining industry. He has staked claims not only for companies but also for his own company. His latest foray into the mining industry is in the environmental sector doing everything from creating reports, determining least risk containment and remediation methods, monitoring the surrounding environment to closing the mine in a socially acceptable manner. His latest venture not only services the Cree but is actively present in other markets

CreeCo President Jack Blacksmith was on hand to ensure Cree businesses would play a part not only in Eeyou Istchee but in other parts of Canada as well. CreeCo was noticed and no doubt courted by many in the mining industry and those hoping to be a part of the latest northern opportunities.

Mary-Carmen Vera of Wemindji Exploration Inc. had an exhibit to showcase their potential. They do exploration as well as providing services to mines and mining exploration companies. The Wachiya Agreement has Wemindji Exploration and Dianor Resources Inc. partnering in a joint venture. Wemindji Exploration has staked claims for various metals and diamonds. The joint venture has resulted in 89 claims being staked.

Last year, Wemindji Exploration signed another Collaboration Agreement with Goldcorp. Board Member Mark Watson said opportunities are opening up as the mining industry realizes the potential of the North. “Our doors are always open for anyone looking for information or to discuss what Wemindji Exploration is all about,” stated Watson. He said the company would like to invite trappers to come in and get information on their activities and plans. Wemindji Exploration was established in 1998.

It was a sign of the times that Glenn Nolan, a former chief of the Missanabie Cree First Nation, was voted in as the first Aboriginal president of PDAC this year. In the past, most mining companies wouldn’t give the time of day to Aboriginal Peoples and their concerns. These days though social acceptability has been accepted by the mining industry as part of the costs of doing business. There is also the Supreme Court of Canada that determined there was a duty to inform and consult with the appropriate Aboriginal population that affects the industry and at times the different levels of government. Mind you, all the workshops involving or dealing with Aboriginal Peoples weren’t willing to talk about what wisdom they were imparting to the mining industry with at least one claiming proprietary information.

Nolan is expected to play an important role in addressing the many issues First Nations face when dealing with the mining industry. He feels his past, both as a chief and as a person who has worked for the mining industry, will help to “build a better relationship between the indigenous groups here in Canada and the industry”. Nolan added his sensitivity and knowledge of Aboriginal issues and the industry “can create that as a bridge between the two and work together to maximize the benefits for everyone”. PDAC sees reaching out to First Nations communities and assisting them as one of their top priorities.

It is both welcomed and with a promise of transparency that our current government expressed their support for the mining industry not only in Canada but also around the world. Canada’s Minister of International Relations Beverley J. Oda told the media that “mining is my new best friend”. She said the mining industry has done much too improve lives around the world. “It is the mining that can raise the standard of living for thousands of impoverished people who struggle to get by on less than $2.50 per day, sometimes much less,” Oda stated. When going through magazines she thought she was “reading an International Aid and Development magazine”, and ended by thanking the industry for their support and becoming “my new best friend”.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest was on the scene with Cree Grand Chief Mathew Coon Come and various hanger-ons. How important was anyone else in the rest of both entourages? They were shakers and makers ready for the 30,000 opportunities.

It was learnt that some mines in Chibougamou that had been shut down might reopen. Higher prices for the metals beneath the surface make it profitable. One of the mines was the Copper Rand Mine. It was part of a study that showed unacceptable toxins were being released into the traditional territory of the Oujé-Bougoumou First Nation. While this may have economic benefits, currently the issues and questions of contamination remain unresolved. The silver lining in this potential cloud is that new policies, laws and permits make the mistakes a thing of the past for Quebec.

However if you want to add your two cents in how Quebec should handle mining, go to:

The following pages feature some of the mining companies operating in Eeyou Istchee.