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Exploration and Co-Operation: When Mining Companies and First Nations Work Together

09/29/2013 11:05 EDT | Updated 11/29/2013 05:12 EST

Since joining Northern Superior Resources in 2002 (formerly Superior Diamonds) as President and CEO, I have applied my strong belief that First Nations must be meaningfully consulted and actively engaged in exploration programs. These exploration programs, after all, take place in the back yards and across the traditional territories of Aboriginal communities where Northern Superior explores. To respect the traditional land uses of these communities is absolutely essential. We actively strive to prevent disturbances to areas that are sacred to the community or where important community events occur. At the same time, it is also very important for First Nation communities to understand what exploration is all about and the limitations of a junior mining company.

Insufficient consultation can seriously impact an Aboriginal community's rights, way of life, and culture in a negative and hurtful way. This is a reality the industry is at long last coming to understand. But where work is still required is in ensuring that Aboriginal communities understand the tremendous impact they can have on a junior exploration company. If the community does not respect nor appreciate the positive intentions of the company as well as their financial reality, expectations become unmanageable and opportunities for progress disappear. Working together in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit is not only the most practical approach to ensuring sustainable resource development, it is now the only way to conduct business successfully in Canada.

Mineral exploration more often than not occurs in remote areas. The expense of executing a remote exploration program can often be managed by working with the local Aboriginal community to find cost savings while simultaneously supporting a local Aboriginal workforce and community services. Employment and training opportunities naturally evolve from such an environment, sparking shared benefits for both the community and the company. Mineral exploration is an aging industry and Aboriginal populations are growing rapidly with a large cohort of youth coming of age. These two realities are, in my opinion, a perfect fit for one another. The opportunities for Aboriginal youth in the mineral sector are limitless. Empowering young Aboriginal people to engage and support the industry as whole not only provides critical skill development and economic opportunities for Canada's most marginalized population, it also strengthens the ability for northern and remote regions to attract new investment through mineral exploration and development. Through this approach, entire regional economies benefit.

It is not entirely about the youth, of course. Over the years I have learned that engaging and hiring elders from an Aboriginal community during the consultation process is essential for an exploration company to fully appreciate and respect the community's unique history, culture and traditions. Engagement with the Chief and Council is also critical for an exploration company to communicate its intentions and to build a positive and trusting relationship with the community. Establishing a communication system between the company and the community is a critical step to ensure that disputes and misunderstandings between the two parties can be managed and resolutions to issues made in a timely manner. This builds a trusting and positive relationship between the two parties.

I learned early on in my career that there is nothing more powerful than having the enthusiastic backing of a community behind any activity in which you are engaged. This backing can only occur if an effort is made by both parties to engage in effective communication and to develop an understanding and respect of each other's needs and limitations. Developing such a relationship takes time, energy and patience, but in the end it is absolutely worth the effort. The only good relationship is one where both parties win, and not at the expense of the other. As President and CEO of Northern Superior Resources, I look forward to continuing and developing our relationship with both our current Aboriginal community partners, Neskantaga and Oujé Bougoumou, and embracing opportunities for developing new relationships as we expand our exploration programs in Ontario and Québec.

Northern Superior Resources Inc. ("Northern" or the "Company") is a junior exploration company trading on the TSX-V under the symbol SUP. The Company's primary focus is the exploration for gold on the Canadian Shield, specifically within the provinces of Ontario and Québec. The Company is currently operating its exploration programs under a Pre-Development Agreement with the Community of Oujé- Bougoumou, the Cree Regional Authority and the Cree Grand Council for the Company's Québec Croteau Est project. Northern's TPK project in northwestern Ontario is operated under an Early Economic Benefits Agreement (EEBA) with the First Nation Community of Neskantaga.

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