Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek
What do you do at Noront?
I am honoured to serve on the Noront Board of Directors. I am also President & CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) which gives me the opportunity to speak on Indigenous issues across the country and around the world. One of the issues I’m most passionate about is representation of Indigenous people on corporate boards. Noront is leading by example.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The CCAB is challenging the status quo in Canada when it comes to Aboriginal businesses and the Canadian economy. I manage the operations and resources of a growing and dynamic company, so my days are varied and include team activities like board meetings, strategy sessions, staff mentoring and/or making major business decisions. I often refer to my calendar as a game of Tetris. I travel a lot so I can share the success of Aboriginal business through speaking engagements and meetings in corporate board rooms and government offices (I’ve travelled nearly one million miles with Air Canada). I’ve met many people and carry their stories in my heart and mind—an important responsibility as this knowledge needs to be amplified to create better outcomes for our people.
What do you like best about working with Noront?
I had the pleasure of meeting our amazing leader, Alan Coutts a few years ago. When I was asked to join the board, I was ecstatic. Al is a dynamic leader with energy and passion that are not lost on the rest of the team. I feel stronger and more positive about the future of Noront after every board meeting. This team truly has the grit and focus to get the work done and better the lives and economies of our First Nations.
How did you get into the mining industry?
I’ve been around natural resource development all my life—my grandfathers worked in forestry and oil and gas. I was introduced to mining in 2009, when I started working for my First Nation, Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek. A lithium deposit was being re-explored by a company from out west and the road access went right through our community. We negotiated jobs, contracts and right of way access, and worked with our neighbouring First Nation to share in the opportunities offered by the mining site.
How do you envision the future for Noront as we transition into an operating mine?
Mine development can transform a community. It provides opportunities to build business relationships, which are fundamental to any development. I’m a strong believer in working hard through our challenges to build resilience. At the base of everything moving forward are strong, resilient and respectful relationships based on the principle of reciprocity. Noront has a crucial role to play in development of the Ring of Fire. Leading by example with these values in mind, will generate the support needed to transition into an operating mine. I’ve seen this occur in many places across Canada.
Has your work at the CCAB helped you in your role at Noront?
Definitely! I’m constantly surrounded by the leaders in various sectors—from forestry and oil and gas to renewable energy and mining among others. The learning I gain from these experiences adds tremendous value to our board discussions.
How has the industry changed over the years?
I look at most economic activity through an Indigenous lens. That’s my priority, passion and job. I’d like to remind everyone that we were Canada’s first entrepreneurs. We began by building businesses that supplied goods and services to Canada’s mining sector. I’m a strong advocate for Indigenous communities that partner in business development to support the advancement of the resource sector. Some First Nations have been at this longer than others, and have experiences, learning and a balance sheet to contribute. This is a place of strength and trust for less experienced communities to lean on. The future holds an increasing number of First Nation communities that are now investing in mining companies, like our friends in Marten Falls, who own share in the future of Eagle’s Nest mine. When meaningful relationships are built, business partnership ensues, and a strong future is born for everyone.