Information flows both ways between Cape Bretoners and Chilean mining delegation

Cape Breton Post
June 4, 2013
By Ken MacLeod

Membertou - A Chilean mining delegation visiting Cape Breton this week expects to take home as much useful information as it's been dispensing.

Tuesday morning, the delegation toured the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites before heading over to the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre for an afternoon of presentations that ranged from First Nations participation in the tar ponds cleanup, training to meet the needs of the marketplace and environmental regulations in Chilean mining.

"There is some mutual interest, first on the Chilean side, in order to understand the agreements you have made with First Nations communities," said Jaime Solari, general manager of SGA, an environmental consultancy firm in Santiago, Chile, in an interview before his presentation. "These are the things we are recently starting to deal with (in Chile) - mining projects and energy projects are starting to deal with the conflicting interests of local communities and First Nations communities.

"And if anyone wants to open a mine in Chile, we have new environmental regulations. My presentation is on how we do environmental permitting in Chile. I'm taking the case of a mine very close to an important town in the north of Chile."

A presentation from Alex Paul, director of the Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, likely answered some of Solari's questions. The Unama'ki Economic Benefits Office, a collaborative approach to business development and training that includes all five Cape Breton First Nations, was successful in gaining aboriginal participation in the $400-million Sydney tar ponds cleanup. "Our office has been engaged to speak here today about how, collaboratively, we all work together to have aboriginal participation in the cleanup of the (former coal) mines (sites) but primarily in the tar ponds," Paul said. "I think because they work with indigenous populations in Chile, finding a way to have meaningful involvement and benefit for aboriginals, I think that's something they are going to be very interested in today."

Tanya Collier MacDonald, owner of Pure Project Relations & Consulting, is the former communications manager for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, which qualified her to talk about communications and stakeholder engagement. One of their concerns in Chile is learning how to engage stakeholders when projects are being implemented," she said. "So they want to learn more about how to deal with the people who have influence over their project's success, and how we did that at the Sydney tar ponds project.

"My goal is just to show them the value of engaging people early on in the process, from when they are at the design stage as opposed to when they are announcing (the project)."

Willie McNeil, officer manager for Stantec Consulting Ltd. in Sydney, is also president of the Mining Society of Nova Scotia. In concert with Enterprise Cape Breton Corp., the mining society brought the Chilean trade mission to Cape Breton. "First of all, we've done a lot of work on mine remediation, so a lot of our local firms have developed some expertise in the remediation aspects of mining," he said. "Chile has a $100-billion mining industry, which consists of active mines and mines which are requiring remediation programs as well. Through Enterprise Cape Breton and the mining society, we saw the opportunity to have some of our local companies . . . work with the regulatory agencies and the mining companies in Chile to help them work with the new environmental programs.

Today, the delegation will be travelling to the Inverary Inn in Baddeck as special guests for Thursday's annual general meeting of the Mining Society of Nova Scotia.

The keynote speaker at the event will be Mario Sepulveda, one of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days after a mine disaster that drew worldwide attention in the summer and fall of 2010.