SASKATOON - An Australian mining company is focusing on creating stronger business ties with the aboriginal community in Saskatchewan.
Alex Archila, asset president for BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), delivered a keynote speech at the First Nations University of Canada this week.
The company is building the Jansen potash mine about 140 kilometres east of Saskatoon and recently signed an opportunities agreement for First Nation participation in the project.
That agreement encompasses several things including education, coaching and working with suppliers and contractors.
Archila says aboriginals are "disproportionally unrepresented" and so will be given preferential treatment when it comes to hiring at the mine.
Archila noted that although BHP Billiton is in Saskatchewan to make money, they can't make that money without being sustainable.
"You have to be part of the community needs and work with them in addressing those needs."
BHP Billiton is still in the early stage of the Jansen project, with 150 aboriginal employees out of 500 workers right now.
Archila expects that to grow to as many as 2,500 employees but wouldn't speculate on how many of those would be aboriginal.
"Hopefully by working today with the aboriginal community we'll build that capacity," he said.
The mining company plans to stay in Saskatchewan for the next 100 years according to Archila, who hopes to leave a big legacy.
"We will leave economic development, we'll leave royalties, we'll leave taxes, we'll leave education in the areas that we've worked."