Two Shuswap bands negotiating with KGHM-Ajax want to set a high bar on the number of First Nations workers employed if the project is approved and goes into production.
Skeetchestn and Tk’emlups Indian band, along with the province, held a ceremony Thursday to celebrate a revenue-sharing agreement at New Gold Inc.’s New Afton mine.
Before the mine started up, local First Nations also negotiated directly with New Gold to promote the hiring of aboriginal workers. Under the deal, the mine agreed to aggressively hire First Nations workers.
New Gold CEO Bob Gallagher said that number today is about 25 per cent of the workforce, approximately 500 people.
Tk’emlups Indian Band chief Shane Gottfriedson said the bands are in discussion with KGHM-Ajax on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the proposed mine, something he called “slow going.”
The mining company also agreed to fund a joint cultural-heritage study that is underway.
Tk’emlups band council will take study results and the memorandum to its members in a referendum to determine whether it supports the project.
KGHM-Ajax is proposing to expand a historic pit located immediately south of Kamloops for an open-pit copper mine. The company expects to submit an application for approval to the provincial and federal governments early in the new year.
KGHM-Ajax spokeswoman Robin Barlett confirmed Thursday the company is in talks with the bands but declined to provide details.
Gottfriedson said participation by First Nations workers will form an important part of any MOU with the mining company.
“I think it will be probably higher (than 25 per cent at New Gold),” Gottfriedson said, citing a figure of 25 to 35 per cent of a projected workforce of 350 at Ajax.
But he also cautioned the bands have serious environmental concerns that must be allayed before supporting the project.