Courtesy of Mike Cinnamond

At CIM’s recent Montreal conference, themed “Building Trust to Decarbonize the World,” we had some great keynote sessions. One of them focused on the need for miners to ensure that we build trust with the Indigenous communities in which we operate or are proposing to operate.

This really resonated with me as it is a very important area for my company, B2Gold, in every jurisdiction we operate in but most recently right here in Canada. In April 2023, B2Gold acquired the Back River project in Nunavut from Sabina Gold & Silver. Back River will be our sixth operating mine but our first significant venture on home soil. In doing so, we realized we needed to adjust our engagement approach to ensure we are meeting the social expectations around successfully working in Canada’s largest settled Indigenous land claim—Nunavut. This newest Canadian Territory was formed in 1999 with the Inuit as signatories to the Nunavut Agreement.

When we acquired it, Back River was already a fully permitted mining district with a strong social licence built over 12 years of continuous and diligent work with the local Kitikmeot Inuit. As part of this process, the project design was brought to the Inuit early for their input, and traditional knowledge was collected hand-in-hand with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, which represents all Kitikmeot Inuit. This information, and the views of local land users, was then used to design a mine that worked for everyone involved. The mine design integrated Inuit recommendations into all stages of the project, from baseline data collection all the way through to closure planning. It required not just an information sharing process that informed people of the future mine, but a two-way engagement process and dialogue that meaningfully changed the project to accommodate local concerns where it could.

While it will likely never be possible to meet everyone’s expectations when it comes to new mineral developments, key efforts were made to strike a balance between the Inuit community’s desire to maintain traditional ways of life, while also securing well-paying jobs in the region, and the company’s desire to operate a profitable gold mine, which will bring wide-ranging benefits for all rights holders and stakeholders.

Working together will be a way of life at Back River—not least of all because the project is located on Inuit-owned land. Continuous communications with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and the various communities and groups in the region will allow us to keep building relationships and trust. I recently had an amazing opportunity to sit down with Elders in Cambridge Bay and they expressed a true and meaningful desire to work alongside us. They understand that many in their communities want jobs and our project can help bring this and other benefits. But to be successful, we must properly balance these benefits against our impacts and address issues collaboratively. Only by working together can we all be successful, which is exactly what the panellists in a keynote session at our recent Convention were saying: If our industry gets it right in Canada, we can build a Brand Canada approach that will be a best practice in the world.