WITH AVANTI MINING in the final stages of lining up financing for its $1 billion planned molybdendum mine at Kitsault on the north coast in anticipation of a construction start next spring, the company has now started building up its data base on potential suppliers, subcontractors and employees.
Specifically it’s focussing for now on either Nisga’a-owned companies or companies with Nisga’a participation or joint ventures and Nisga’a residents.
Avanti has held three workshops this summer – one in Vancouver for businesses and an employee workshop in Terrace and another one in Gitwinksihlkw in the Nass Valley.
Its collaborator in each workshop was Nisga’a Employment, Skills and Training (NEST), the employment development arm of the Nisga’a Lisims Government.
The workshops may meet commitments made by Avanti when it received its provincial environmental clearance for its Kitsault project, but connecting with local entrepreneurs and hiring local is also simply good business, explains Peter Baird, a communications contractor with the company.
“What we’re looking for is the best possible fit for our needs and we want to have a strong local flavour,” he said.
Avanti plans a workforce of up to 500 people over the course of two years of construction and a mine operating workforce thereafter of 300 people.
Participants in the Vancouver businesses and contractors workshop included 14 representatives from various companies and everyone was walked through how Avanti will set up its tendering and procurement methods.
Those in attendance came from a variety of companies, including the joint venture of Bear Creek Contracting of Terrace and Nisga’a-owned Hobiyee Management.
The consulting firm of Merit Consultants outlined the basic information needed as companies first work their way through the prequalification stage to be a supplier or contractor up to how tenders are handled and awarded.
As a publicly-traded company, Avanti has to be fair and transparent in its dealing with companies and individuals, said Baird.
The company won’t be providing any kind of break to Nisga’a businesses or in the hiring of Nisga’a citizens, he added.
“But we have said we will look first at Nisga’a businesses or businesses that have Nisga’a partners or joint ventures,” said Baird.
One decision made by Avanti is to give 15 days advance notice to Nisga’a businesses of its tendering or procurement plans so that submission preparations can be made.
“This will just let them know what’s coming down the pike,” said Baird.
He said the emphasis is not only on development local business talent for construction but for the planned 18-year life of the mine.
Both Baird and Gary Patsey, the executive director of NEST, said they were pleased with the turnout of 54 people for the employee workshop in Terrace and the 73 people who attended the one in Gitwinksihlkw.
‘We’re getting a lot of interest now that various proponents have been coming up,” said Patsey of Nisga’a citizens interested in employment.
The sessions NEST held with Avanti were the first of their kind for the employment agency.
As such, it’s giving NEST, which officially opened up late last year, the chance to develop a model of how to work with a company.
“It’s the first project with boots on the ground,” said Patsey of the mining project which is taking place within Nisga’a traditional territory.
He said the role of NEST is to respond to the employee needs of companies and prepare individuals to meet those needs.
It starts with what Patsey called a shopping list of manpower needs submitted by a company.
“We’re demand-driven when it comes to skills development,” he said.
In the case of Avanti, Patsey said the planned 18 year life of the Kitsault molybdenum mine comes close to the working life of a person.
“What we’re hearing from Avanti is that they have a corporate culture of having a safe place to work and that there will be room for advancement,” he said.