Supporting indigenous people in business projects in Canada

ABB in Canada has a long history of working with First Nation communities and developing their technical skills. It has proved important to business success, as well as demonstrating the value of community engagement.

In 2004, ABB and Iskueteu, a First Nations company, set up a joint venture to deliver service at a nickel mine at Voisey Bay in Labrador. Under the agreement ABB and Iskueteu provided maintenance, training, competence development and career planning to 71 employees, 31 of whom were Labradorians, and 19 members of the local First Nations and Metis communities. More than half of the people had no previous experience of industrial maintenance at a mine.

The mine delivered its targeted levels of production six months ahead of schedule – an achievement attributed to multiple factors, including the benefits of setting up the joint venture, and of providing direct employment and a sense of ownership in the project.

Based on ABB’s experience, a mining company in Canada approached ABB in 2013 to engage with the local Matawa First Nations community in the Ring of Fire area in Northern Ontario. The customer and Matawa representatives came to ABB offices in Ontario to hear about what had been achieved in the earlier project in Labrador.

This resulted in ABB agreeing to support a multi-stakeholder initiative called the Ring of Fire Aboriginal Training Alliance (RoFATA) in its 12-week training-to-employment program.

As part of the program, attended by 100 people, ABB presented a history of mining, automation and software mining applications, and different aspects of electrical and automation underground mining and minerals processing. In addition, there was a review of what skills would be required of job applicants, and potential employment opportunities.

Underlining the importance of the earlier experience in Labrador, an elder from the Iskueteu First Nations community was flown to the RoFATA meeting by ABB, and made his presentation wearing traditional Iskueteu ceremonial dress as a sign of tribal respect. A video was also produced at the meeting of a round-table discussion between stakeholders, which is designed to encourage such multi-stakeholder approaches in future.

For ABB, adopting this socially-responsible approach is a win-win. It has strengthened the business relationship with customers for key projects, and is supporting First Nations communities and giving them a greater say in their future.