The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

Young leaders discuss nature of 'SLOs'

A group of presenters at the first annual Northern Regions Summit held in Vancouver May 28-30 addressed the nature of "social licenses to operate" and how mining companies should go about getting and keeping them.

The dialogue, at the same time, allowed Alaska's Institute of the North, the summit organizer, to showcase young aboriginal leaders from Far North communities in Alaska and Canada.

Jason Prno, Ph. D., a researcher and consultant from Waterloo, Ont., moderated a panel discussion titled, "Emerging Leaders Dialogue - Developing a Social License to Operate."

Prno said an SLO is exists when a mining project has the approval of the local community, and "variables that can affect outcome form a broader social license environment."

Obtaining an SLO requires mining companies to deal with a number of pressing challenges such as capacity. Some communities lack enough capacity to respond effectively to opportunities presented by a mine project.

Prno also said understanding context is key. A company should define its vision of sustainability and recognize that local communities are partners in the mineral development process.

"Adaptability is needed to confront complexity," he added.

Panel members cited examples of problems that have arisen in the quest for SLOs.

Teevi MacKay, a Jane Glassco Foundation Fellow from Northwest Territories, said a watchdog is needed for hearings held by the Nunavut Impact Review Board. MacKay said the Board held important hearings recently about a large mine project the after the whaling season had begun and the whaling captains missed the sessions. That sort of breakdown in communications shouldn't happen, she observed.

Tiffany Zulkosky, former mayor of Bethel, Alaska, and currently executive director of Nuvista Light and Electric Cooperative, said communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region of Alaska want to be sustainable so their citizens can live on the land and practice their traditions and culture.

"We also want to harness renewable forms of energy that might be in our area," she said.

Since joining Nuvista in late 2013, Zulkosky said she has worked to bring transparency in energy development to the organization.

Kluane Adamek, a Jane Glassco Fellow and a member of the Kluane First Nation in southwestern Yukon Territory, said a potentially huge mining venture, the Wellgreen PGM-Nickel-Copper Project, is under development in the heart of her people's traditional territory, yet her people have not felt engaged in the project at times.

Adamek works for Canada's Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa and is a member of her First Nation's development corporation board.

Noting that as many as 10,000 people could migrate to the area if a mine is built at Wellgreen, Kluane said, "We haven't been able to give feedback."

The Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship aims to assist young northerners, especially Aboriginal northerners, aged 25 to 35, who want to build a strong North that benefits northerners. In an 18-month long program of both self-directed and collective sharing of knowledge and skills, the Fellows learn to better articulate and share their research and ideas publicly, and strengthen their ability to build a healthier, more self-reliant and sustainable North.


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